Small tree to 15 m common in Queensland rainforests especially on the edges or in disturbed areas. The leaves are quite conspicuous, very large, broadly ovate, pale green, with stinging hairs. Often heavily chewed by insects. The young leaves have more stinging hairs than mature ones.
The flowers are very small and held in open bunches in the forks of the leaves. The fruit is small, nut like and borne on fleshy stalks.
Contact with the leaves or twigs causes the hollow silica-tipped hairs to penetrate the skin, causing a severe stinging or sharp tingling sensation which can last for days or even months. Pain may also be referred to other areas of the body. The injured area becomes covered with small red spots joining together to form a red, swollen mass. The affected area can remain intermittently sensitive for a long period of time. It may be possible to remove the hairs by applying sticking plaster or sticky tape and pulling it off (www.health.qld.gov.au). The folk remedy of the Cunjevoi involves getting some sap of that plant to dry as a rubbery film and pulling it off.
Photo: Robert Whyte