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  1. 86 Photo by Murray Fagg ANBG
  2. 075_nsw_christmas_bush_-_by_john_tann Full flowering before pollination by John Tann
  3. 147_nsw_christmas_bush_-_by_tony_rodd_4 Mid pollination (White flowers fall off and leave red sepals) by Tony Rodd
  4. 175_nsw_christmas_bush_-_by_john_tann_2 Red sepals of flowers (after pollination) by John Tann

New South Wales Christmas Bush

Ceratopetalum gummiferum

Appearance

  • It is an evergreen shrub or small tree.
  • Size: up to 10 m high and 6 m wide, but much smaller when grown in gardens where it reaches a height of only 2 – 5 m.
  • Leaves: glossy green and made up of three leaflets which are 3 – 8 cm long and 0.5 – 3 cm wide when mature. They are thin, with serrated edges, and are a golden orange-red colour when young.
  • Flowers: initially creamy white and star-shaped, forming clusters that are 10 cm long. Each flower has five petals that are about 3 mm long. After pollination the white petals fall off, leaving the outer sepals which enlarge to about 12 mm long and turn deep pink to orange-red. These “flowers” consist of five sepals and are also star-shaped. They are commonly mistaken for flowers, but the real flowers are the less noticeable white ones.
  • Fruit/seed: a seed pod containing a single seed is found inside the red sepal “flower”. It falls to the ground when ripe. 

What to Observe

  • First fully open single flower (referring to the red sepal "flower")
  • Full flowering (record all days)
  • End of flowering (when 95% of the flowers have faded)
  • Seeds (pods) dropped to the ground (record all days)

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect plants to start shooting and flowering earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas, as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.

When To Look

  • From late spring through summer
  • Flowers appear in late spring to summer
  • Sepal "flowers" turn red in early–mid summer (from December)
  • Seed pods (within the red sepal "flowers") appear after flowering in summer 

Where To Look

  • It is naturally found on the east coast of New South Wales, from Ulladulla to Evans Head. However, it has been widely planted in south-east Queensland and coastal Victoria.
  • In moist gullies and on slopes in open forests, in rainforests, on old sand dunes and in urban areas, particularly in gardens.

NSW Christmas Bush Occurrence Map ALA

References

Australian Biological Resources Study 1982. Flora of Australia Volume 10. CSIRO Publishing / Australian Biological Resources Study.

Fairley A and Moore P 2000. Native plants of the Sydney district: an identification guide. Kangaroo Press, Sydney.

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  1. Did You Know?

    The NSW Christmas Bush is widely farmed for the florist industry and even exported overseas!

    Its genus name, Ceratopetalum, means horned-petal after one of the species that has petals resembling a stag’s horns; and its species name, gummiferum, means gum-bearing after the gum that oozes out of its bark.