July 27, 2012
vangelical teetotaller King O'Malley's attempts to keep human Canberrans sober and free from ''stagger juice'' failed lamentably. Now temptation is to be placed before our city's parrots.
Earlier this week this city's first Drunken Parrot Tree was planted. It has this alarming common name for a very good reason, elaborated below.
From little things truly enormous things grow. The petite African walnut sapling (Schotia brachypetala) that Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai planted at the National Arboretum earlier this week (as well as African walnut, another of its many common names is Drunken Parrot Tree) can be expected to one day reach a monumental 20 metres.
But if that sounds gigantic it's not, really, in the bosky context of the Arboretum where there are trees including the Dawn Redwood from central China and the Bunya Pine from south-eastern Queensland that will amble ever upwards to heights of perhaps 35 metres. It makes one wistful to think that we mortals around today, including ACT Minister for Multicultural Affairs Joy Burch who spoke at the tree-planting ceremony, won't see these trees at their adult best.
''Not only is the African walnut an exceptional ornamental tree,'' she said at the planting, ''it also has a number of other uses. The bark is used to treat heartburn and hangovers … In colder regions such as Canberra, the tree is deciduous, losing its leaves for a short period in winter. In spring the tree produces rich, deep red flowers in masses which attract nectar feeding birds.''
Ms Burch, perhaps fearful of alienating the RSPCA, or worse still the Animal Liberation hellions, didn't mention that this is the Drunken Parrot Tree. It gets this name from the way in which, in its African settings, its masses of deep red flowers ooze nectar that ferments in the sun, creating a stagger juice that attracts a wide variety of boozing birds.