It’s time for one of my childhood stories again, I’m sorry, I just can’t help it! When I was a little kid I refused to swallow the seeds of any fruit I was eating because I was terrified that they would germinate in my stomach and a fruit tree would grow out of my ears. I have no idea how this idea was planted in my head, but swallowing pips is something I avoid to this day. I don’t believe that trees will grow inside my body, but I refuse to swallow them anyway. I’m telling you about this rather ridiculous habit of mine because the image of leafy green branches sticking out of my ears was the first thing which came to mind when I read this news article about a man in the Urals who went to his doctor with terrible pain in his chest and coughing up blood.
After x-raying the man’s chest, the doctor was “100% sure” that his patient had lung cancer, so he prepared to remove a large section of the diseased lung tissue. This is where the story gets really interesting; the doctor claims to have found a 5cm long fir tree growing inside the lung! A tree! Growing in his lung! The doctor then allegedly removed the tree and the patient is recovering.
Here are the photo and x-ray provided as evidence of the tree in Mr. Sidorkin’s lung;
I have to confess, I am a *tiny* bit sceptical about all of this. My first question is how did the seed manage to get into the lung? The article suggests that Mr. Sidorkin inhaled the seed directly into his lung. This is unlikely, but plausible. I do not know how big a fir seed is, and I am inclined to think that a person would cough up anything smaller than a raisin which went up their nose (I know from personal experience that raisins can become lodged in the nose of a two year old toddler, hence my choice of the upper limit of the size of the seed). However, the seed could be inhaled through the mouth and land up in the lung. Unfortunately this means that location itself is not impossible (even though it is highly improbable).
The next serious question I have is whether or not a seed would actually be able to germinate inside a human lung. Wikipedia frames the precise requirements for seed germination with an excellent explanation for each and I will take a brief look at each below;
1. Water – I am not a medical doctor, however I HIGHLY doubt that there would be sufficient water in the human lung to facilitate germination and continue to provide for the plant’s requirements until it reached 5cm tall. If there was this much water in Mr. Sidorkins lungs, surely he would have drowned?
2. Oxygen – Not a problem, there is plenty oxygen flowing in and out of our lungs on a daily basis. All the seedling would have to do is snatch a little of the supply before it is absorbed into Sidorkin’s bloodstream.
3. Temperature – The inside of the human body is hot, a healthy persons axial temperature (measured under your arm) should be in the range of 36deg Celsius. That’s the external temperature under your arm. The inside of your lung would most probably be too hot for a fir seed to germinate.
4. Light – While sunlight may not be necessary for the fiir seed to germinate, it is the essential source of energy for green plants. A seedling could not grow to the size of the one supposedly extracted from Sidorkin’s lung without sunlight.
Please take a close look at this recent picture of the fir tree in question, which I sourced here. I know it is small and perhaps a little difficult to make out, but there is one very important detail missing; the roots! Where are the roots? They are not visible in this image or in the original image propagated with this news story (of the chunk of lung with a twig sapling jammed growing within).
About that chunk of lung; it is a LARGE piece of lung laying out on a piece of gauze. Judging by the ruler I would say it is at least 10cm across, unfortunately no sense of depth is apparent. That’s a mighty big chunk of lung to remove from someone who does not have cancer.
In closing, I think that what we are dealing with here is a hoax. Plain and simple.
Images of lung and x-ray sourced here.