Biology

Melianthus major has flowers which are adapted for pollination by birds.

The large, reddish flowers show generalised adaptations that are not closely linked with any single species of bird.

As the common name ‘honey bush’ suggests, the flowers produce copious amounts of nectar and are borne on strong inflorescence stalks.

These allow the endemic nectar-drinking birds - which cannot hover - such as the Cape whiteye (Zosterops pallidus) and the lesser double-collared sunbird (Cinnyris chalybaeus) to perch easily and reach the flowers, pollinating them in the process.

The leaves have a strong and unpleasant smell and have been used by people for various purposes including medicines.

Detailed studies of the chemicals the plants contain have been carried out.

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