Tingletongue won't trouble Life Savers
I discovered this amazing fact after chewing on the bark of Dinosperma erythrococcum. Not because I hallucinated up images of various lolly companies and superimposed them onto Fruit Tingles wrappers, but because the bark is said to tingle the tongue.
You get nothing from the trunk of the tree but if you chew a small twig you get a slight tingle. Nothing, as I say, to trouble the manufacturers of sherbet lollies but interesting nevertheless.
What attracted me to the tree was not its culinary potential but the bright red berries. These and the leaves don't tingle.
We have only one of these trees in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne and as luck often has it, it has no label. I asked fellow botanist here Neville Walsh for his opinion after after smelling the crushed fruit and leaves (and quite possibly tasting as Neville tends to do) he thought the Rutaceae family. That's the family of the lemon and boronia, two very aromatic plants.
After a little botanical sleuthing Neville came up with the name Dinosperma erythrococcum which fits very nicely. It is a member of the Rutaceae family and it's leaves contain small oil glands full of lovely chemicals such as geranyl acetate, linalool, spathaulenol, ocimene and so on (not I don't know what these smell or taste like either).
According to our sources, the common name of Tingletongue refers to the stems also being chemically active. You can see few raised dimples in this stem with holes in their middle. Perhaps they have something to do with the tingle source. Or perhaps not...
Dinosperma erythrococcum used to be in the genus Meliocope, which I've featured before. Meliocope elleryana has spectacular chunky pink flowers (see my post on the doughwoods from a couple of years ago).
The Tingletongue grows naturally in dry rain forest in the north-east corner of New South Wales and up into Queensland. It's uncommon in New South Wales and also in cultivation - our single specimen is certainly eye-catching.
Is the bark poisonous? Well if it is particularly toxic you'll be able to test this by tracking my blog over the next few days. No new posts may mean it is. And this is the culprit!
Images: Except for the packet of Fruit Tingles from Wikipedia, the rest are photos I took in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.