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This question came up at lunch today, and I didn't believe my friend when he said someone had a pine tree growing in his lungs.

I have found several sources: 1, 2, 3

Source #2 has a key note:

There was no independent verification of the surgeon's claims.

Other sources state that it was green, which is hard for me to believe. How could a plant grow with no light inside a lung? Is this actually possible, or just a news report that has been widely circulated?

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2 Answers 2

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This is a well known urban legend.

This letter published on Chest Journal addresses the issue

Trees Don't Grow in the Lungs! - Chua and Mehta, 2009

We would like to bring to the attention of readers that trees do not grow in humans. To the best of our knowledge, there has never been a single report in the medical literature of seeds and/or plants growing in humans. If they did, watermelon seeds and peanuts,4,5 which are the most commonly aspirated foreign bodies, would be growing out of control from our lungs. Moreover, it makes no biological sense that in the absence of sunlight and appropriate nutrient medium, photosynthesis and germination of a seed can take place.

4 - Mahafza T, Khader Y; Aspirated tracheobronchial foreign bodies: a Jordanian experience, Ear Nose Throat J 2007

5 Chik KK, Miu TY, Chan CW; Foreign body aspiration in Hong Kong Chinese children, Hong Kong Med J 2009 [PubMed]

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  • 3
    "it makes no biological sense" is a statement, not proof (not that I disagree with it, but proof it doesn't make).
    – user5341
    Mar 14, 2013 at 18:13
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    How about this? abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2010/08/… And the last statement in the quote makes no sense at all. Seeds bring all their nutrients with them to sprout. They certainly do not need sunlight(seeds sprout below the ground) and they do not need nutrients other then water. And air humidity is often enough for that (which you have plenty in your lungs)
    – Stefan
    Mar 14, 2013 at 18:28
  • Also explained here healthland.time.com/2010/08/13/…
    – Stefan
    Mar 14, 2013 at 18:33
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    Starting seeds are often done in the dark, and moved to sunlight after they start growing. They need water and not much else. Mar 15, 2013 at 18:43
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    Furthermore, I often see seeds sprouting and growing inside cucumbers. Here is a pic of pumpkin seeds growing inside a pumpkin which looks eerily like a lung sharedharvestcsa.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/cheese-pumpkin.jpg Looks like germination has taken place to me.
    – Randy
    Aug 5, 2013 at 9:24
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The show 'Monster Inside Me' actually has documentation of an older man with respitory problems who did asperate a raw pea and it did germinate and start to grow inside his lung. It was removed on the 3rd Bronchisotomy trying to get a biopsy. All germination requires is moisture, warmth and oxygen. Any seed could do this, although it would not get very big before blocking off and collapsing the lung. Discovery Blog (Internet Archive)

According to Wikipedia, the episode in question is S3E6, "A Monster's Taking My Baby".

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