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David Emery

Skeptics Doubt Fir Tree 'Grew' in Man's Lung

By April 17, 2009

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OKAY, THE news out of Russia, albeit several days old, is that a 28-year-old Izhesvsk resident named Artyom Sidorkin checked into a hospital last week coughing blood, so doctors performed a biopsy and found, "to their amazement," a lush, green, 5-centimeter-long sprig of fir embedded in his lung.

They were amazed because, according to the original press reports in Komsomolskaya Pravda and MosNews.com, an object that size (about 2 inches long) "is too large to be inhaled or swallowed," the doctors said.

So they surmise that at some point the patient inhaled a small spruce bud "which then started to grow inside his body."

Second opinion: 'I think it is nonsense'

Notwithstanding the credulous reception given the story by the international media, skeptics are crying foul. "Seeds and plants do not grow in humans, the medium is not right for it," South African pulmonary specialist Chris Bolliger was quoted as saying on Health24.com. "I'm very skeptical."

Another specialist, cardio-thorax surgeon Tony Linegar, concurred. "The growth of plant material in humans has never been recorded in academic literature. Until someone comes up with concrete evidence, I think it is nonsense."

What the medical literature does show, interestingly enough, is that it's not unprecedented for bits of plant matter up to 5 cm. in length to find their way into human lungs. One published study, for example, describes a "sheaf of grass" of exactly that size being extracted from the lung of a nine-month-old child.

Be that as it may, Dr. Bolliger, like the Russian surgeons who claim they found the "fir tree" in the first place, doesn't believe such a foreign object that large could have been inhaled without lodging in the patient's airway or being coughed out.

If he's correct, that leaves us with only one other explanation, best summed up as follows: Tree in Lung 'a Hoax.'

Video: Tree Grows Inside Man's Lung


April 21, 2009 at 9:20 pm
(1) Rebecca says:

Anybody notice the fly in the alleged surgery scene? Looks pretty hoaxy to me.

April 23, 2009 at 9:21 am
(2) Zelia says:

I have noticed it, so I watched the video a few times but it seems to me that the fly is not in the operation room, it walks over the monitor of the laptop belonging to that surgeon.

April 23, 2009 at 4:44 pm
(3) Jeff says:

It’s not a fly, it’s a mouse cursor.

April 23, 2009 at 6:26 pm
(4) Paolo Attivissimo says:

The news story was published in Russian media on the day that in the Julian calendar (used in Russia) is April 1.

Does that ring a bell? :-)

Keep up the good work!

Paolo (Swiss-Italian hoax buster)

May 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm
(5) Curious Mind says:

If this plant “grew” from an inhaled seed or bud, then where are the roots. Plants need roots as a source of nourishment, right??

August 16, 2010 at 12:15 pm
(6) CyberDog says:

Besides the lack of roots, I find it quite amusing as to how much of the lung was removed in comparison to the size of the tree. Me thinks that this person has a fir huffing problem that he fails to admit to. At least he is saving on the kitten huffing. Having a surgeon to have to remove a kitten from the lung after a bout of kitten huffing, now that would be entertaining news.

June 8, 2012 at 12:37 am
(7) Steve says:

Plants photosynthesise. I’m pretty sure the human lung is a dark environment. Anybody else spot the obvious problem? Or did the guy accidentally inhale a grow-light as well? You’s think he would have noticed the electrical wiring hanging out of his mouth if he did?

July 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm
(8) skyle says:

In the 1960s, my grandmother had a sprig on St. Augustine grass with 3 leaves and a well-developed root system removed from her foot. She had cut her foot while mowing several months earlier and noticed no pain until she was clipping her nails and found a blade of grass protruding from her foot. I have a hard time believing doctors are skeptical of the fir tree scenario. Surely, this sort of thing cannot be all that uncommon.

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