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Most dangerous plant - Ongaonga

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Ongaonga - Urtica ferox

Of course there is a debate about whether this New Zealand-plant is the most dangerous or the Australian Dendrocnide moroides, anyway this plant was listed as such in the guiness book of records and I think so too...

Apart from allergies it can be said that the toxin of the Ongaonga (Urtica ferox), a nettle endemic to Aotearoa (New Zealand), can cause the most irreversible (polyneuropathy) and most painful injuries. The pain lasts for 3 days! A human death was also recorded.

I'm waiting for germination of the seeds, which is complicated, then I will make a cage for it, so that nobody gets hurt.

Today I put the seeds under the microscope and I think they can be called the most dangerous seeds *g*, as they also have small stinging hairs filled with toxin:

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The Māori planted this tree nettles in front of their dugouts as defense against enemies.

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If I recall correctly the only human death recorded from Ongaonga was a lightly clad hunter who fell into a patch of it.

As part of my old job I removed a lot of it daily and noticed a few things about it.

Some dogs would play with and rip it up run through it all day and seemed unaffected, others knew to stay away from it.

The NZ Red Admiral eats it as its main food plant.

Getting stung by it really does hurt but what was more interesting to me at least was that it made me feel somewhat confused and in a bit of a stupor for the rest of the night.

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Maybe some of the 5-HT and related chemicals in the leaves can make it into the brain, causing the mental effects.

A friend of mine back in the early 90's wiped his ass by accident when he was drunk with the leaves of Dendrocnide excelsa, he said the pain could still be felt a month after it happened. Even though he was in bad shape when it happened I just couldn't stop pissing myself laughing for days.

Edited by Leaves
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@solomon: right, the person who died, fell into a patch. Dogs do have a quite different metabolism, as I remember Theobromine (cocoa) and onions should be avoided by dogs because they are toxic, so other things, toxic for humans, maybe nontoxic for them.

Really interesting your mention of the mental effects.

@Leaves: absolutely, the toxin of Urtica ferox is still unstudied- maybe an oral intake could cause psychoactive effects because most often the really dangerous components are not taken up in the stomach, only if applied intravenously from the stinging hairs.

Nettles also contain Histamine.

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My mum recently got stung by ongaonga and this huge inflamed circular patch grew on her arm where she had been in contact with it.

The reaction didn't heal for over a month.

It looked terribly sore.

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This info is from http://austrop.org.au and has new treatment methods listed at the bottom

Treatments - Then and now.

Various Older Treatments that have been tried....

Cunjevoi Northern NSW Aborigines are reported to use the plant cunjevoi (Alocasia) as an antidote. These plants are often found growing near the offending stinging tree (see the picture of the Giant stinging tree). (The rationale is a belief that the antidote grows near the offending plant) - The technique was to rub the sap of the leaf, stem, or rhizome (underground root) on the affected parts immediately. This treatment is one of the most often mentioned when talking about stinging trees but it has been proven that in Far North Queensland it has no effect and if anything worsens the pain.

(The reality seems to be that the aborigines just 'wore' the pain.)

Dettol Blake (1970) in Poisonous Plants of Australia reported that rubbing the affected parts in undiluted Dettol reduces the pain. Other individuals have found this treatment ineffective.

Hot Water Cairns District Ambulance Officers have found that immersing the affected part in hot water relieves the pain but only for as long as the part is immersed. Not too hot as there is a danger of scalding.

Chris Shaw's Remedy Chris Shaw was a local Cairns pharmacist who reportedly used to make up a 0.9% Hydrochloric acid solution to irrigate the affected part. Anecdotal evidence suggest that relief was obtained using this remedy but no recent proof has been found to confirm this.

(Comment - 'close - but no seegar ' - the acid was too dilute to be effective!)

Paw Paw Ointment This is a local Cape Tribulation treatment. No proof that it works is available but it may well provide some relief as it contains a protein digester (Protease)

Xylocaine or Lignocaine Cream This short term local anesthetic treatment lasts only as long as the cream is effective. It should probably be used only after depilatory wax treatment. If creams of any kind are used before wax treatment the wax will not grip the hairs as efficiently, reducin the effectiveness of the treatment.

Other Folklore Remedies Include spirits of ammonia, blue bags, nitrogen compounds, urine, rubbing with fine sand, and rubbing with the fleshy part of the Cassowary Plum. None of these remedies have been tried so no comment can be made about their effectiveness

Depilatory Wax Treatment

The long term recurring nature of a D. moroides and cordata sting is due to the silica hypodermic hairs remaining below the skin level until the body can physically repel them out of the skin, this can take months. The use of depilatory wax although designed to remove human hairs is an effective method of removing stinging tree hairs. This treatment was developed in the 1990’s by Dr.Hugh Spencer of the Australian Tropical Research Foundation (AUSTROP) and has since been used by many people including tour operators in tropical rainforest areas. Stings from all types of stinging trees are treated in the same manner. This treatment recommends using "Waxeeze" a sugar-based depilatory (like very sticky toffee) which is readily available from most pharmacies, but in effect any strip depiliatory will do.

Treatments - Then and now.

NEW TREATMENT

This has been developed at the Cape Tribulation Tropical Research Station over the past 10 years where investigation of the toxin has been the subject of several student studies. (we get called upon to treat about 2 stings a year from locals and tourists - it's been a long time since Cyclone Rhona!- as stinging trees really get going after a cyclone).

With this treatment – the pain and after-sensitivity is completelygone in about 12 hours after treatment (as opposed to waiting for 3-6 months!).

We call it the acid and hairstrip approach.

1. What you need.

Make up a solution of 10-15% hydrochloric acid in water.Hydrochloric acid (commonly sold for cleaning cement and brickwork)- produces very unpleasant choking fumes when concentrated - but is fine when diluted about 1 in 8 with water, which is what we use. Hydrochloric acid is the acid produced by our stomachs (at about the same concentration that we use for the treatment! ) - in fact, for a condition known as achlorohydria - people actually drink acid of this dilution - not pleasant - but it is essentially non-toxic - being a natural product of our bodies.

The diluted acid will not harm the skin or most materials (but keep it away from metal utensils - use glass or plastic) - however it stings quite intensely if it gets in cuts, so if you have cut or scratched hands- use a pair of latex throwaway gloves to apply it.

2. Applying the acid.

We use strips of tissue or toilet paper, laid over the affected area, and the acid poured over that to saturate the paper (and patted gently into close contact with the skin) . IT WILL STING LIKE ANYTHING - for about 5- 10 minutes - and then the sting will subside - sorry about that - but it is simply reacting with the damaged tissues as it moves down the stinging hairs - and neutralising (hydrolysing) the protein. For very young children - I suspect you will have to use fairly copious amounts of xylocaine gel first - wash it off once it has taken effect - and then apply the acid.It's a case of a short sharp shock to eliminate the long term misery and pain of the sting.

We usually add a little more of the acid after about 10 minutes - and leave the tissues in place for at least 1/2 hour.

This is also why it must be emphasized that the victim should NEVER scratch the stung area - it exposes more damaged skin - and the pain from the acid treatment, although brief, will be worse.

For a light sting - this is usually enough. For a bad sting, it will be necessary to use depilatory strips to remove the stinging hairs (and the victim's as well!).

Then…

3 Application of wax.

The aim of applying the wax is to remove as many of the stinging hairs as possible. With this end in mind the wax must be applied as gently as possible so as not to break off the brittle silica hairs making them almost impossible to remove. This is why Waxeeze is preferred over the conventional strips. In warm weather the wax can be spread with a knife like honey. In cold climates the Waxeeze may need to be warmed so it flow more easily.

(Using Waxeze - a sugar based product)

We recommend this material over say 'Nair' depilatory strips, because it can be kept in a first aid kit without degrading over time - especially in the tropics. It is a bit more 'fuss and muss' than depilatory strips but is gentler in application.

Step 1 Spread the wax directly on a linen strip, handkerchief, shirt, or whatever is available. Spreading the wax onto the cloth first minimizes the chances of breaking the hairs as would happen if you spread the wax directly onto the skin.

Step 2 Gently pat the linen on the affected area. The application of the wax can cause considerable pain in the short term but once the treatment is finished the pain quickly goes away.

Step 3 Leave the linen strip in place for five minutes to allow the body heat to soften the wax more and allow it to flow around the hairs providing better grip.

Step 4 After the five minutes the cloth is ripped off in on fast movement. If possible rip the cloth off against the direction of the stinging hairs. This will remove the stinging hairs as well as the victim's own body hairs.

Repeat this procedure if the stinging hairs are not all gone. If all the new wax is used up linen strips can be reused.

Immediately after the wax treatment Xylocaine or Lignocaine cream or similar can be applied to the affected area for pain relief.

From reports, all pain can be expected to be gone by the next day although some itching has been reported. It is important that the victim does not scratch or rub. Antihistamines don't seem to reduce the severity of the pain but they might reduce the inflammatory responses.

Don't use the lotions sometimes included in the Waxeeze package as it contains chloroform which will make this type of pain worse!!!

While this treatment works as a treatment, if there are symptoms such as asthma or other autonomic signs consult a doctor

First Aid Kit:

A first aid kit can be made up consisting of a small pot of waxeeze, linen cloth strips, a candle and lighter to warm the wax if required;all contained in a small container. A 25 ml plastic bottle of concentrated hydrochloric acid would give 200 ml of acid solution. Make sure it is well sealed! (put the bottle inside a small non-shatterable plastic jar - include 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in the jar)- as leaking HCl can ruin everything in its immediate vicinity - especially metals). Don't forget a couple of disposable latex gloves - and you'll need some of your toilet paper too! This kit is small enough to be carried by bushwalkers or workers in rainforest areas where the chance of being stung is greatest.

Edited by Leaves
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Sorry - deleted a double post. Might as well mention that the acid should be added to water slowly to dilute, not the other way around.

Edited by Leaves

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Ongaonga are grown especially as fodder for the NZ admiral butterfly, there's at least one patch hidden in central Auckland for the butterflies. :)

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the treatment- tips are very useful, the acid should denaturate the protein- components of the toxin

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Oratia nurseries not too far from me sells these to the general public. I nearly actually bought one to be totally honest, and it wasn't till I came to the realisation that at some stage I would inevitably be stung I decided it wasnt the most brilliant idea. Just by looking at the trichomes you can tell it really wont be an enjoyable experience to touch this plant

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there's a widespread nettle in PNG highlands that is commonly used (in place of paracetamol etc) on sprains/ pulled muscles and other similar injuries. They just whip the injured area with the nettle and endure the temporary discomfort.

Also the single girls played a traditional game where they ganged up on a single guy and whipped his bare torso with nettles while the guy tried to escape. It was kind of a childish flirty thing in a society full of strict social rules. Thankfully they had the decency to ask me if I wanted to play and I said NO FUKKN WAY!

I honestly don't know how they handle it, those ones sting like F**K!

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I have heard of Gympie gympie stingers killing horses after they breath in the tiny hairs when they bump a big tree. I would rather get stung by that NZ stinger anyday.

From http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/gympie-gympie-once-stung-never-forgotten.htm

North Queensland road surveyor A.C. Macmillan was among the first to document the effects of a stinging tree, reporting to his boss in 1866 that his packhorse “was stung, got mad, and died within two hours”. Similar tales abound in local folklore of horses jumping in agony off cliffs and forestry workers drinking themselves silly to dull the intractable pain.

Writing to Marina in 1994, Australian ex-serviceman Cyril Bromley described falling into a stinging tree during mili­tary training on the tableland in World War II. Strapped to a hospital bed for three weeks and administered all manner of unsuccessful treatments, he was sent “as mad as a cut snake” by the pain. Cyril also told of an officer shooting himself after using a stinging-tree leaf for “toilet purposes”.

He’s had too many stings to count but Ernie Rider will never forget the day in 1963 that he was slapped in the face, arms and chest by a stinging tree. “I remember it feeling like there were giant hands trying to squash my chest,” he said. “For two or three days the pain was almost unbearable; I couldn’t work or sleep, then it was pretty bad pain for another fortnight or so. The stinging persisted for two years and recurred every time I had a cold shower.”

Edited by Leaves

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Just had to point out that this is legal and cannabis isn't...

Ongaonga - Urtica ferox

A human death was also recorded.

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Recently on a trip to the South island I found a big dense lush patch of this plant clambering through bush while not sober.

It facinated me and my mates for the good part of an hour tripping out and admiring its ferocious demeanor. I knew this plant had a reputation so I warned my mate not to touch it so what does he do... Immediately start runing his hands all through it :rolleyes: Eventually ( after ALOT of persuading ) he convinced me and my other friend to try so we did.

Now I dont know if the particular plant we found was just really mild but it was really not that painful whatsoever. To get stung felt like the equivilant of eating a spicy chilly. Except focused in small spots and the sting/burn dissapearing within minutes. The areas of contact on our skin randomly tingled occasionally over the following days, kinda like pins and needles, it was a very strange sensation but not a bad one :huh:

I dont want to suggest trying this however. Could be bad bad news if it turns out your allergic, or find a stronger plant than we did.

Heres the patch we found

post-11261-0-07516100-1414996581_thumb.j

Upclose of the gnarly trichomes

post-11261-0-71991700-1414996714_thumb.j

Huge leaves ( compared to other Urtica species )

post-11261-0-50808800-1414997706_thumb.j

If anyone coming to NZ wants to find some. It grows in the port hills of Christchurch abundantly usually huddled up to rocks.

Another thing that I noticed was the leaves really alter form depending on light levels. The plants we found in shade had large smooth leaves where as plants in the port hills had a much coarser texture and shrivelled leaves dude to the sun exposure but they nearly looked like totally different plants. Didnt get a photo though sorry.

Anyway. I went and bought myself a plant on the weekend.

So I can sting myself when I get bored lol and hopefully attract some of those stunning Red Admiral butterflies :innocent_n:

post-11261-0-14794300-1414996774_thumb.j

Edited by Nemisty
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Looks like a stinging nettle on steroids!

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so why is it the most dangerous plant lol?

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http://www.teara.govt.nz/files/d-9773-enz.pdf

Link to a PDF on Ongaonga "poisoning"

Thus was a severe response to the well documented but poorly publicised poisonous
tree nettle, which has claimed at least one hu
man and many animal lives in the past. The
National Poison Centre was able to provide g
ood information regarding the components of
the sting which include histamine, 5-hydroxytryptamine and acetylcholine, and other

substances not yet identified

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