Staff at Dunedin's Botanic Garden are concerned about the growing popularity of a drinking game called "possum", in which participants sit in trees and drink large amounts of alcohol.

According to the website Urban Dictionary, "possum" is a "drinking game in which players have to sit in a tree, like possums, and consume a pack of 24 beers ... until they fall out of the tree from drunkenness".

Dunedin City Council gardens and cemeteries team leader Alan Matchett said staff first encountered people - believed to be mainly students - playing the game about four years ago.

Since then it had increased in popularity to the point where it was "not uncommon" for gardens staff or security guards to have to chase away people who were playing the game.


Mr Matchett said his understanding of the game was that a number of people climbed a single tree, taking with them large amounts of alcohol and sometimes food.

This was a concern, he said, because of the food scraps, broken bottles and vomit often left behind, the potential for someone to get injured falling from a tree and the effect it had on other users of the gardens.

"Having loud voices, swearing, urinating and all that sort of thing going on really isn't part of what the gardens is about," Mr Matchett said.

Staff were also concerned about the damage that could be caused to trees, some of which were classed as heritage trees and were more than 100 years old.

As yet, they had not encountered anyone who had been injured falling out of a tree.