NSW Christmas Bush

Until they flower I don’t ‘see’ my local Ceratopetalum gummiferum trees but every summer they cover themselves in the colours of Christmas – the profuse flowers are white (if you scrinch your eyes it could be snow), followed by red calyx that change hue as they age.

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One of my neighbourhood Ceratopetalum gummiferum trees. First it’s white …

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…  then it’s red. Photos: Sandra Simpson

Also known as the NSW Christmas bush, this plant can grow to 12m in its native range so ‘bush’ is a bit of a trap for the unwary. The ever-reliable Stirling Macoboy reports that the small genus is native to eastern Australia and New Guinea.

In the coastal bushlands of New South Wales, and in many gardens of Australia, the summer Christmas season is announced by a small, slender tree, Ceratopetalum gummiferum, he writes in ‘What Tree is That?’ (1979). Although it has no practical use, it is beloved throughout its home state and picked lavishly for Christmas decoration.

He goes on to note that the slender tree is hardly noticeable without its flower colour (whew, I haven’t been inattentive). The tree is hardy to -2C. Read more here.

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Photo: Sandra Simpson