Sunday, August 10, 2008


The interpreter was with a half-class of Grade 3 students in a meadow at the edge of a forest of big-leaf maple trees and hazelnut shrubs. He said, "Find three different deciduous leaves, and make rubbings of them using your crayons and paper, but," he cautioned, "whatever you do, do not use this plant here." He poked the plant with stick, and bent it back and forth, so that even the dimmest among them understood which plant. "Notice that there are other ones around too. Take a good look at these plants and be sure you do not touch them," he said.

"Why not?" asked a boy.

The interpreter said, "This is stinging nettle. It is covered in tiny hairs filled with acid. If you touch the hairs, the acid will get into your skin, and it will sting very badly, worse than a bee sting."

The students pondered, briefly. The boy touched the plant. He yelled, "Ow! Ow! Ow!"

"Why did you touch the plant?" the interpreter asked, in dismay. From behind, another boy shrieked in pain. The interpreter turned to find him holding one hand with the other, next to a stinging nettle. "Don’t touch the nettles!" the interpreter shouted.

Then a girl cried out, "Ow, this hurts, this hurts, this hurts!"

"Stop touching the nettles!" the interpreter yelled, and lunged to prevent another from stinging himself. But there were fifteen of them, and only one of him, so there was little he could do to contain the madness.

The teacher of the class, who had been some distance away with the other half and another interpreter, now came upon her students, who were bent over in pain, clutching their hands, with tears rolling down their cheeks. "What's going on?" she cried.

The first boy pointed at the interpreter. "He told us to touch the stinging plants," he said

Next story... 

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Emily said...

Hedge bindweed.... is that Morning Glory? (I hate morning glory).

Hugh said...

It's often called morning glory, and it is a difficult garden pest to eradicate. I even have it springing up in the lawn!

Northern Shade said...

Your interpreter story was hysterically funny, especially if you're not on the receiving end of the sting.

Hugh said...

Thanks, Northern Shade. I so often have been!

Cicero Sings said...

How contraire those little ankle biters can be! Ha, ha!

kompoStella said...

the story of children and nettles was a fun read :-D
they are stubborn plants indeed, yet i'm grateful for them because they make a great fertilizer... for my plants and for my hair ;-)

Helen said...

Your story is very funny. Kids.

By coincidence, my neighbour came running to me today, waving her hand as if she'd just touched something hot.

"I've touched a plant and now my hand is really stinging -- come tell me what it is!!!!!!" Stinging nettle, as you might have guessed.

"What should I dooooooo?"

I advised her to check the internet (while I went back to my place for anti-sting stuff): it suggested treating it by applying tape, then ripping it off to remove the stingers. It worked! Have you ever heard of that? I hadn't.

Hugh said...

Helen, I've not heard of that. I didn't know the hairs/stingers remained attached. I understood that to neutralize the acid, a basic topical should be used.

Usually I have no choice but to walk it off.