When people venture up to the Daintree Rainforest they often worry about all the dangerous animals for example the crocodiles, snakes, jellyfish and of course the spiders however, as harmful as they may be, many often forget about the dangers which lie hidden. The Plants!
The Daintree Rainforest is home to some of the most deadly plants that we have on the planet and not too many people know about them.
So here is a little guide to help you navigate the plants of the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.
1. The Stinging Tree
The stinging tree is also known as ‘Gympie-Gympie’ by the Aboriginals meaning devil like. As you can work out by the name its not the friendliest plant around. There are 6 different species of stinging tree and all of them are dangerous but its the smaller species which inflict the most pain.
At first glance it looks quite harmless with its large heart shaped leaves and serrated edges but don’t be fooled by its appearance the whole plant is covered in tiny needle like hairs which inflict a very intense and painful sting. The top and bottom of the leaves as well as the stems are completely covered in them. By simply brushing against the leaves can cause excruciating pain and in some cases death! It has been compared by some people as being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time.
The pain comes immediately after contact and will reach its peak in about 30 minutes symptoms will include swelling, sores, intense stinging and increased heart rate. Although dangerous stinging trees aren’t everywhere in Cape Tribulation they need a lot of sunlight to grow and also protection from the wind so are often found in places where trees have fallen down, leaving a gap in the rain forest canopy, or by creeks and walking tracks.
If you do come into contact with the tree make sure you seek medical help immediately the best treatment for the sting is as simple as a waxing strip, the idea is to get as many of the stinging hairs out of your body. The pain from the tree can last months after the initial sting due to the stinging hairs continuously giving out the toxin.
Wait-a-While is another aptly named plant and is found everywhere in Cape Tribulation. Often mistake for a vine it is actually a climbing palm which has spikes all over the stem as well as hooked barbed arms coming off it, the plant uses these to climb around the rain forest.
If you do happen to get caught by this plant you will have to ‘wait a while’ to get out as the hooks will embed itself into skin and clothing alike. However by simply pulling the barbs in the opposite direction it will release with ease. The vine can easily reach up to 30 meters latching on to near by trees to get to the top of the canopy.
Even though the plant isn’t toxic the sheer strength of the barbed arms can cause a lot of damage. Not as bad when walking into it however unlucky people who have been riding horses or bikes through Cape Tribulation have felt the force of this and walk away with a lot of scars.
Although wait-a-while is found all over the Daintree Rainforest it is most common in places affected by forces of nature like cyclones. Cyclones will tear down large areas of trees opening up free space for plants, like wait-a-while, to thrive giving them all the sunlight they need. Just remember if you do get caught by wait-a-while don’t panic just pull the barbs in the opposite direction and continue on your adventure.
3. The Tar Tree
The tar tree is quite commonly found around lowland coastal rain forest which is why Cape Tribulation is the perfect place for these trees to thrive. They can grow up to heights of 30 meters with a greyish- brown coloured bark.When the tree is cut into the sap will turn to a tar like colour when it reacts with the air.
This sap is also the reason this tree has made it onto this list. If you come into contact with the sap or the fruits of this tree it can cause severe allergic reactions such as blistering, sores and swelling (similar to chemical burns). This will often leave people out of action for a few days and seeking medical attention. Getting the sap of the tree in your eye can also cause blindness.
Although dangerous there aren’t found everywhere only in more untouched parts of the Daintree Rainforest so don’t worry too much about them as the chances of you seeing one are extremely small.