Danger down under

There’s long been the hoary old cliche of Australia as a treacherous travel destination. A place with more things that can kill you in a very nasty way than anywhere else –  all thanks to its impressive roll call of threatening resident creatures plus dangerous ocean rips and a host of other potentially fatal possibilities.

Now add to that parade of formidable foes a stupendous listing of the country’s myriad poisonous plants, fungi and bacteria, in numbers so prolific they fill a 976-page tome.

Australia's Poisonous Plants, Fungi and CyanobacteriaPublished by the the CSIRO, Australia’s National science agency,  Australia’s Poisonous Plants, Fungi and Cyanobacteria (US$205) is “the first full-colour, comprehensive guide to the major natural threats to health in Australia affecting domestic and native animals and humans”.

The author is retired veterinarian toxicologist Ross McKenzie, who will now forever be known as Toxic Ross. He says more poisonous plants continue to be discovered.

This impressive publication will no doubt add even more ammunition to those who like to rave on about all the spiders, snakes, jellyfish and other wriggling, biting beasties lying in wait for unsuspecting visitors to the great southern land.

Such scaremongering does make for arresting copy along the lines of: “If the Great White don’t get ya, the Red Back will!”

Top-selling travel scribe Bill Bryson in his 2000 travelogue Down Under (published in the USA as In a Sunburned Countryconsistently milked the theme of dangerous nasties. Imagine his prose if he’d also had this immense toxic plant guide handy.

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