Ptaeroxylon obliquum is a species from the Rutaceae family which are most abundant in South Africa and Australia. The term ptaeroxylon is Greek for sneeze and wood, while obliquum denotes the oblique shape of the leaflets. The wood produces oils containing nieshoutol, which causes violent sneeze attacks by workers who are exposed to the tree. Though sneezewood is not poisonous, it has been known to cause respiratory complications. It has been linked to asthma, rhinitis and mucosal inflammation.
Ptaeroxylon obliquum is a shrub or medium deciduous tree that stands up to 15 metres (49 ft) tall. The bark is whitish-grey and smooth when young, but fissured with age. Leaflets are 2.5 x 1.3 cm marked asymmetrically. They are blue-green to dark green in color and crowd near the ends of the rachis in three to seven pairs of leaflets. The flowers on the tree are white to creamy yellow and fragrant.
Sneezewood is very dense having a specific gravity of 1040 kg/m3
Sneezewood is used for medicinal and ritual purposes. The bark can be used to repel moths or as snuff. The resin has been used to get rid of warts and cattle ticks.
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- Peter Schirmer, The Concise Illustrated South African Encyclopedia 1980, Central News Agency Ltd, ISBN 0-620-04359-8