Giant Stinging Tree

Caged Juvenile Giant Stinging Tree (Dendrocnide excelsa)
Artist name: Jane Richens

Comically large heart-shaped bright green leaves punctuate the canopy of the rainforest. They look velvety and at times lacy from beetle attack. But don’t touch! The leaves and branches sting even when they are dead and brown on the forest floor. Juveniles are caricatures of a kooky tree with long spiked petioles holding out oversized jagged leaves. Mature trees are emergents. They reach out above the forest canopy growing to 40 metres and are held up by fluted buttresses that sound like a drum when tapped. They are an important pioneer species in a rainforest ecosystem colonising light on the forest floor, growing fast and tall and cycling nutrient. And in death they cycle very quickly. Their trunks turning to watery sponge in a very short period of time. Alas this is a misunderstood and maligned species and is often chopped and burnt out of existence.

This particular juvenile peeks out from the safety of it’s cage in a foreign space and within the surrounds of strange species. It started its quest for light amongst leaf litter on top of a galvanised iron roof of a timber shed. It has been lovingly moved to a pot and will eventually find a permanent home on the edge of our rainforest once it has had a Sydney art adventure. Who is being protected – the Juvenile Giant Stinging Tree or us?

Stinging tree dressed to dance
A giant in the forest emerging above the canopy. They grow to 40mtrs.
Stinging leaves on long petioles.

Sting is mentioned in this ABC Arts article

‘Sting’ (Caged juvenile Giant Stinging Tree) and I went on an art adventure to participate in ‘Hundreds + Thousands’ with Luke George & Daniel Kok & other plantitas for Liveworks at The Performance Space, Carriageworks, Sydney in October 2022.

‘Sting’ now has so many stories to tell the forest of it’s art adventure in the big city. Thank you ‘Hundreds + Thousands’ crew! Thank you Brian Doherty for the fine caged suit to wear!

‘Sting’ is now back on the creek at Tabbil Forest.