Mat hospitalised in vicious Phoenix Palm attack!

Ok, so before you panic and worry about how serious it was, Mat is fine and well. I just thought I’d sensationalise the heading a wee bit :-)

Yesterday Mat was pruning a large Blue Gum. On finishing the job he made his usual rapid descent out of the tree and landed straight on top of a perfectly positioned bit of pheonix palm throng. Someone must have been previously pruning the palm nearby and done a bad clean up job, leaving a big chunk with the nasty spine end sticking up at the perfect level for piercing Mat’s calf.

For those of you who haven’t had the delightful experience of a Pheonix Palm they have these long palm fronds (or throngs) with pinnate leaves which metamorphose into long viscious spines near the base. They are pretty easy to spike yourself with when handling, snapping off and leaving bits embedded in your skin. Mat has had a fair few spikings whilst doing tree work in Australia but luckily they have only been small bits and haven’t festered too much, gradually working their own way out after a few weeks. If you’re unlucky the wound can go septic or cause blood poisoning, supposedly because possums like to live in the palms causing the spikes to get coated with possum piss and other nasty bacteria.

Pheonix at Randwick
This is a picture of a pheonix palm that Mat felled a while ago at Randwick Racecourse. Normally they would have to be climbed, the throngs all cut off (for some poor groundy to carefully get rid of) and then chogged down in bits. However, the size of the racecourse meant they could be felled in one for the excavator to come and take away and dump straight into the tub grinder. You can guage the size of this palm from Mat’s ute on the right!
They are fairly harmless at this size (unless you are the unfortunate one having to climb it for dead throng removal etc). However, they still do drop the odd dead throng by themselves and it amazes me that these things are so popular – especially in parks where a child could easily fall on top of a stray spike.

 Pheonix Palm spines
Here is an example of the spines at the base of each frond.

Anyway, the spike that nailed Mat yesterday went in deep and snapped off leaving a big chunk embedded in his calf. It was causing him some pain so he decided to go to the medical centre and get it removed. After poking him and prodding him a few times (much to Mat’s discomfort) the doctor announced that it wasn’t going to come out easily – no shit, that’s why Mat had gone to the doctor in the first place! – and had to cut him open. I couldn’t believe it when I came home and Mat declared that he had had to have two stitches. Of course this meant he was invalided for the night and I had to cook dinner – bless :-)

Phoenix Palm spike
Mat brougt home the offending spike so I took a picture of it next to a standard packet of Rizla to demonstrate size. It’s exactly 1.5cm long which is pretty big compared to the previous ones he’s had at only around 2mm.

The wound
Here is a picture of the wound – only small but it will certainly leave a scar – yet another one to add to Mat’s already impressive collection.

The wound closeup
And here is a close-up.

Ok, so Pheonix palms aren’t deadly but it just goes to show that it’s not just Australian creatures that are out to get you. There are many other trees and plants out here that are spikey, poisonous, have seed pods filled with glass fibre-like hairs, etc, etc. You name it, Australia has it. We have a few baby phoenix palms at our house, all the worse because the spikes have a tendancy to stick out at body level. Needless to say we keep them well trimmed and in fact got rid of one entirely at the weekend (well it was right in the middle of one of the maraya hedges and must have self-seeded because no one in their right minds would purposely plant one there – would they?). The others may have to follow suite at some point and be replaced with something nice and unharmful. I dread to think about having children anywhere near them!

I should also mention that the Phoenix Palm, Phoenix canariensis, or Canary Island date palm, is not native to Australia but originates from… yep, the Canary Islands.

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