NSW Christmas Bush Tony Rodd

NSW Christmas Bush

Ceratopetalum gummiferum

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

Evergreen shrub or small tree, 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.

Fruits/Seeds

A seed pod containing a single seed is found inside the red sepal “flower”. It falls to the ground when ripe.

Species: WhatToObserve Image

What to Observe

  • First fully open single 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)

Species: WhenAndWhere Image

When and Where

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

  • Naturally found on the east coast of NSW, from Ulladulla to Evans Head
  • 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
Species: WhatElse Image

What Else?

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