See this lovely flower? Her name is Cansanção.

Her name is lyrical—like canção (song) or cansaço (weariness). She lives right next to and her flowers look just like those of the delicious-smelling marsh plant (shown in the forefront of the above picture). Trust her not.

There is no end to the number of stinging plants in this jungle climate. This week I discovered cansanção the hard way. I knew about–and carry a personal vendetta against–our ortiga (nettles), which causes stinging welts that itch with the slightest touch. If you’re silly enough to scratch the itching can last all day. If you can exert mind over matter, the stinging will fade in an hour or so. Seriously annoying, but not so bad.

Cansanção? She’s like ortiga’s nasty, big sister. When I explained to my husband where I had gotten such a nasty rash he nodded and said, “Sim, desse jeito. Ela é brava.” (Yes, that looks like it. She’s tough/angry/defensive.) Desse jeito, indeed.

Look closely. That lovely flower is covered with little hairs. Each hair is a spine, waiting to lodge into your skin and then break off. I learned my lesson by brushing against just one plant, but by then was too late. The itching from the toxin is worse than ortiga, and the welts so far have lasted a week. At first they looked like tiny ant-bites–not so bad. And then yesterday everything started to swell and inflame as I suppose my body finally dealt with the toxin within each little prick. It looks horrible. It feels just about as bad. Thank goodness my contact was limited. Thank goodness I stock antihistamine pills.

Learning what not to touch the hard way (by the way, this leg is far better than yesterday. And as comparison, here's an image of what my hand normally looks like)
Learning what not to touch the hard way (by the way, this leg is far better than yesterday. And as comparison, here’s an image of what my poor hand normally looks like)

I read about her for this post. Wikipedia tells me that an effective remedy is to immediately pour urine on the affected part. The urea would have counteracted the toxin. Since I was hardest hit on my legs and feet, in other words I should have peed my pants. Silly me for not thinking of that. I also learned that in some areas of Minas Gerais (around here?) they actually use this plant for culinary purposes. How in the name of all that’s holy did they come up with that idea?? Someone must have gotten really hungry. And how the heck to do they manage to collect and prepare it? My imagination is boggled.

So once again I’ve revised my inventory of all things pricking and stinging on the farm. Meet Cansanção, Public Enemy #1.


  1. I’ve never seen that flower before (or I never paid attention). Good to know, though we don’t live in the roça. 😉

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