NSW Christmas bush - Ceratopetalum gummiferum

The NSW Christmas bush is generally a large shrub or small tree and in cultivation it rarely grows to more than four to five metres high. The leaves are up to 70mm long and are divided into three leaflets which are finely serrated and the new growth is often pink or bronze coloured. It is widespread over the east coast of New South Wales, commonly growing in open forests on sandstone hillsides. In cultivation the plant must have a well-drained but moist position, in sun or semi shade.

The vibrant red ’flowers’ that this tree is known for aren’t actually flowers at all. The tree sends out its real flowers in spring, and these are relatively modest—small, cream coloured, star-like and a little bit stinky. Deep pink to bright red sepals (which are little leaves that protect the flower bud) emerge and take over the plant after the flowers die.

Plants known in other Australian states as Christmas Bush are entirely different and have no connection with Ceratopetalum.

Cut flowers from the New South Wales Christmas Bush will last for up to three weeks. Cut the bottoms of the stems at an angle and change the water regularly to prolong the life of your bouquet.

TIP

For the sepals to achieve a bright red colour, your plant needs to receive a lot of sunlight, so make sure you don’t plant it somewhere too shady. This plant likes moist conditions, and regular watering will give a good, long flowering season.

Christmas Vase