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Medicinal, culinary and unusual botanicals from Australia and around the world
Melicope bonwickii

Drunken Lorikeets?

I saw this recently on the news, flocks of Lorikeets acting strange after feeding on the flowers of certain native trees. The simple explanation was that they are drunk, from nectar in flowers fermenting and producing ethanol in quantities large enough to ‘stone the crows’ or at least get a Lorikeet drunk. Anyway, it reminded me of something I can across years ago, a reference to Melicope bonwickii in the Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants key, which states:

The flowers of this species are very popular with nectar or pollen feeding birds particularly parrots. The noise emanating from flocks of these birds feeding in flowering trees suggests that there may be components in addition to simple nectar and pollen in their fare.

and then:

Occurs in North East Queensland and southwards to coastal central Queensland. Altitudinal range from near sea level to 800 m. Grows in well developed lowland and upland rain forest but probably reaching its best development on soils derived from basalt. This species is favoured by disturbance and as it is a fast growing species it can compete quite successfully with the regrowth species. When this species flowers, large numbers of birds are attracted and the noise emanating from the assemblage suggests that there may be an ingredient in the nectar which modifies their normal behaviour.

Now i’m not sure how long the flowers last but for them to have nectar that is infected by the right fungi to produce ethanol long enough to start fermentation they would have to remain about 2-3 days open or on the tree, you know what I mean. They would also have to compete with the Lorikeets licking up the nectar and bacteria. It just doesn’t sound possible or feasible. I would suggest it is something else and if there is anyone growing this species, I encourage you to experiment with the flowers, make a drink!

A member of the Rutaceae family. Synonym Euodia bonwickii.


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  1. I used to have a few rainbow lorikeets & always went & collected fresh flowers for them. In summer on hot days the bottlebrush trees, umbrella trees & grevillia flowers all get them drunk.

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