The lore that shrouds Australia’s giant stinging trees, of the genus Dendrocnide, is perhaps as dubious as it is vast. Tales abound of nightmarish encounters with the hypodermic-needle-like hairs of its leaves injecting a toxin that drives men to madness and has prompted horses to hurl themselves off cliffs.

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Some of these stories are centuries old and cannot be verified. But as Edward Gilding can attest, these legends contain at least one lick of truth: the absolute agony of being stabbed…

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