NSW Christmas Bush Tony Rodd

NSW Christmas Bush

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.


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.


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.


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

Field Guide

Improve your identification skills. Download your NSW Christmas Bush field guide here!

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.