The ISW has featured a lot of horror stories about plants and animals, and that's to be expected, given the subject matter here. However, it is rare that a story is so awful that I actually decide to give up and go to sleep rather than try to summarize the atrocities. Here we have one of those stories, posted at allAfrica.com, about the problems caused by the intentionally introduced shrub known as mathenge (Prosopis juliflora). While this plant has been blogged in several other posts at the ISW, none of the articles has been as bad as this. To summarize:
- A woman's goats and sheep ate mathenge pods, then died of starvation after their teeth fell out.
- The same woman lost her finger and has a paralyzed hand after she injured said hand on a mathenge thorn.
- A man can no longer enjoy drinking with his friends because he is unable to make his way home from said festivities without coming into contact with the horrid mathenge plants (and, I assume, risking the loss of his digits).
Some fact-checking is in order here. The PIER program did a thorough risk assessment of mathenge (which we call "mesquite" here in North America) and they do note a study where goats were fed the pods of this species, leading to "partial anorexia, depression, salivation, twitching, dehydration and bloody diarrhoea" (how do you tell if a goat is depressed?). This article from GISP notes that wounds caused by mathenge thorns are more prone to infection, but doesn't say why. The Botanical Dermatology Database notes the wax on the thorns can cause serious eye injury, and this post over at the Bike Mojo message board provides further anecdotal evidence of poisonous thorns.