It has taken over 200 years for we Aussies to start shifting away from a European style Christmas, with its heavy roast dinners and plum puddings.  Mind you, there was a push for something more suitable leading up to  Federation, when our  national spirit was on the rise. In the late 19th century bush picnics were popular;

Old Australian Christmas Card
A little girl offers Christmas fare to a swagman sitting under a gum tree..

Australian flora was very much  appreciated around this period. From the  Sydney Morning Herald 1911;

Christmas in Martin Place Sydney
Christmas In Martin Place
Australian Chrsitmas Stamp 1981

I confess I am still prone to  buying  cards with English robins  perched on  snowy letterboxes, but an  Australian Christmas tree does stir my imagination. Below is a miniature one I created from a banksia serrata  bloom and a mountain devil ‘star’.

Blue Mountains Christmas Tree, banksia and mountain devil
Oh Christmas tree…..

You can buy banksia seed ornaments these days. I bought this one at Leura, in the  beautiful Blue Mountains.

Banksia capsule Christmas bell


Bottle Brush doesn’t need any embellishment at all. Christmas entirely by Mother Nature;

Bottle Brush
Just add lights.

Now I must tell you about  an ancient Australian plant called Lycopodium, once grazed upon by dinosaurs. It’s like a miniature pine tree and produces its own ‘candles’. If you want to know more about this amazing plant, click HERE

Lycopodium, the perfect choice?

Here is one I prettied up with fuchsia, native correa bells and grevillea. Lycopodiums  grow in a special area of  my garden in the Blue Mountains village of  Blackheath.

Lycopodium Christmas tree
Decorated from the garden.

Of course when the lycopodium’s candles  appear  there  is little need for much more decoration. We have this one outside our front door.

Lycopodium Christmas tree.

A tree of our own


On one occasion during  my  Tasmanian childhood my father brought home a sapling gum instead of the usual pine bough. We all loved it, especially my mother, who didn’t have to deal with falling pine needles.

A newspaper  editorial  in 1902 discussed the question of an Australian Christmas tree, concluding;

I would choose the sapling Gum. For it is the emblem of our bush Christmas and where it has pride of place there is more of the true spirit of Yule, less of the spirit of possession.

Let England, old Europe and America have their pines. The Christmas Gum has a nostalgic fragrance that  does more things to one’s heart than the sum-total beauty of all the others. 

My house is called The Gums, so I’m inclined to agree with the author.

Christmas in the Blue Mountains

Sydney’s  historic Strand Arcade features gum leaves and nuts in their Christmas decorations. Don’t they look delightful?

Gum leaf Christmas decoations in Sydney's Strand Arcade.
Sydney's Strand Arcade Christmas decorations featuring gum leaves and nuts.

Real gumnuts make sweet ornaments too; just the ight size and not too heavy. We have author/illustrator  May Gibbs to thank for embedding them in our consciousness;

Gumnut babies by May Gibbs


Of course there must be a gumnut angel for the top of an Aussie tree.  Admittedly the  one  below left has an acorn head and hat, but never mind.  I love the kooka’s  gumnut wine glass in the picture at right , too

Gumnut Angel
So sweet
Christmas tipple for a kookaburra
A little tipple for Christmas.

In my Blue Mountains Garden I’m training these king parrots to pose in a gum tree, but clearly I need a few more for the full effect.

King parrots in gum tree
Live baubles.

This year I was amazed to see Australian flora featured on Sydney’s Martin Place Christmas tree. There are waratahs, kangaroo paws, grevilleas, flannel flowers, correas, banksias, Christmas bells, etc, etc. Just beautiful.  But  I can’t help wondering  if people even notice as they hurry  by, or pause to take a quick selfie? I really hope they do.

Martin Place Christmas Tree 2018
Our beautiful native flora on show.

It’s worth remembering that the Christmas tree in Martin Place is a relatively recent tradition, dating from 1971. It was impossible before the area became a pedestrian only zone. In earlier years the city’s tree was erected in Hyde Park.

Our national flower is the golden wattle (acacia). The spring blossom is pretty on  greeting cards, but perhaps other acacias are more appropriate as  Christmas trees.  A male king  parrot feasting on the silver  seed pods of Acacia covenyi  is very festive in my opinion. The pods are at their peak in December.

King parot in the silver wattle
King parrot in the silver wattle.

I will end  with a tribute to our very own, prehistoric  Wollemi pine, discovered growing  deep in the National Park in 1994. Many people now have one growing, and decorate it at Christmas.  It’s hard to get more Australian than that.

Wollemi Christmas tree
What a treasure.


  1. Delightful article and photos thank you Pauline.

  2. Awesome article Pauline! I love it. I think Russellia is underused too. They’re a beaut little bush covered in Red bells, though they come in lemon and orange as well.

    • Pauline

      Thanks Evie. I was going to add Russellia to the piece, but apparently it’s not an Aussie native It does sound very festive! Has probably been growing here for so long we think it’s a native.

  3. Thank you so much for such a wonderful article. We really do live in a beautiful country. I was lucky enough to live in the Blue Mountains for 10 years (namely Blackheath) some time ago and appreciate the beauty of the area.

    • Pauline

      So kind of you to take the trouble to leave a message Fran. I so love Blackheath, we moved up from Sydney 17 years ago.

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