Don’t Touch! Dangerous Tropical Rainforest Plants to Avoid in NQ
Walking through the ancient tropical rainforests of North Queensland is an invigorating experience but there are a few dangerous tropical rainforest plants that are definitely best avoided.
When people visit tropical rainforests or jungles they may be on the look out for creepy crawlies and possibly even a snake, but very few are aware that there are also some plants you should avoid coming into contact with.
Some of them are really obvious like this spiky palm tree that you certainly wouldn’t want to walk into. Others are a little less obvious and it’s only when you come into contact with them that you understand how they came to get their Aboriginal name.
If you stick to paved pathways you will be okay but you should still keep an eye out for some of these plants because they’re actually quite fascinating.
One of North Queensland’s most notorious and very common plants is the Wait-A-While vine.
It hangs from the canopy of the rainforest with prickles on its thin stem. Initially it may look harmless, it’s only when you get tangled in it and try to walk away that you realise how it got it’s name.
Wait-a-while vines have hooked spines on them so if your skin or clothes get caught on it as you walk past it literally hooks onto you.
So the best course of action if you find yourself hooked up is to stop walking, ‘wait-a-while’ and disentangle yourself.
If you keep walking it can scratch your skin and rip clothes.
This hanging vine (also known as the Lawyer Vine) can sometimes be tangled amongst other plants or hanging vines so its a tricky little plant that’s often difficult to see.
This plant looks much like the Wait-A-While but has smaller fronds and the stems are thickly covered with fine spines rather than hooked prickles.
New fronds on this plant often take on a purple tint and the small bunches of fruit it grows attracts cassowaries and fruit pigeons. Try to avoid this plant as the spines on the stems are not pleasant to touch.
It may look attractive and harmless but it is definitely best avoided.
Aboriginal people call this plant ‘Gympie Gympie’, which means ‘devil-like’. It has large green leaves with serrated edges that are toxic. If your skin comes into contact with the leaves, fine silica-tipped hairs inject venom like mini-syringes.
It causes extreme pain with symptoms including an intense stinging sensation that can last for several weeks.
The best treatment is to remove the hairs from your skin with a waxing strip.
The stinging tree can sometimes be found close to walking tracks so don’t just assume it’s only to be found in the middle of dense rainforest.
It actually tends to grow in open areas, along roadsides for example, because it needs a lot of light to grow. It does less well under the thick canopy of trees in the forest.
If you stick to paved paths you are unlikely to come into contact with a stinging tree. It is only if you choose to walk along a worn path through forest that isn’t paved that you need to be on the look out. If it’s in a popular area, there may be signs like this one on the way to a local swimming hole.
travel nq fast facts:
- Most travellers are unlikely to be affected by any of these plants but forewarned is forearmed!
- If you take a rainforest tour your guide will point out dangerous tropical rainforest plants to avoid