The leaves of plant known as “Gympie-Gympie” have a sting so painful that some victims consider suicide.
And a British man, Daniel Emlyn-Jones, is growing it in Oxford.
The plant, known to scientists as Dendrocnide moroides , is a relative of the common stinging nettle.
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But the Gympie-Gympie’s sting, rather causing an unpleasant irritation that lasts a few minutes, leaves anyone unlucky enough to touch it with an agonising barbing sensation that becomes increasingly painful over a period of about half an hour and has been known to linger for months.
Even dead leaves lying on the forest floor can leave an unwary traveller in agony for hours.
An ex-serviceman named Cyril Bromley told how he was severely stung in North Queensland in 1941.
He was swinging over a creek as part of his military training when the branch he was hanging from broke, dumping him into the clutches of a Gympie-Gympie.
He told researcher Marina Hurley that he was “was literally tied to his hospital bed for three weeks because the pain was so bad”.
He also told the story of an officer that he knew who had shot himself because he could not stand the pain.
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But plucky gardener Daniel Emlyn-Jones insists that he’s in no danger: “ 'I don't want to come over as a loon,” he says, “I'm doing it very safely.
He told the Oxford Mail he was cultivating the terrifying shrub because he was “bored with geraniums.
“I just thought it would add a bit of drama to my gardening,” he said. “You can get seeds on the internet, you have to be careful it doesn't spread out of a contained area though, so I keep it potted in my front room.
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Daniel got my seeds from a company in Australia for “something like sixty Australian dollars (about £33), so it wasn't cheap”.
“After growing my bananas in the front garden, I thought the gympie-gympie plant would keep things interesting”.
He keeps the potentially deadly bloom in a locked cage that’s covered in warning signs.
He also says he takes care to keep the leaves away from the bars: “If someone came too close and brushed against it that'd be quite risky”.
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