Ceratopetalum gummiferum, is a small tree commonly known as the New South Wales Christmas Bush. Its sepals turn bright red/pink in December.

In Victorian times, native foliage such as Christmas bush was very popular as a festive decoration in Sydney. It was growing in the heart of the city, where locals considered it ‘fair game’ to raid trees on the property of wealthy absentee landowner Sir Daniel Cooper.


EVENING NEWS 28 November 1893 – Prosecutions at this time of the year for the theft of Christmas bush are numerous, especially so at the Paddington Police Court, where culprits are taken by the caretaker of Sir Daniel Cooper’s Estate, Rose Bay. This location abounds in Christmas bush. On Sunday two young men named Joseph Graham and Archibald Morris were arrested for taking some of the bush and at the Paddington Police Court yesterday on a charge of having maliciously damaged the trees, were fined 5s, and ordered to pay the damage, which was assessed at 5s, in default 21 days imprisonment.

From The Australian Star, Friday 15 December 1893

Several depredations have already been committed on Sir Daniel Cooper’s estate at Rose Bay, where the coveted Christmas bush flourishes luxuriantly, and still another case has to be added to the list. At the Paddington Police Court yesterday Thomas O’Shannessy, a man of 30, was fined 10s, with 10s damages, or 21 days in gaol, for maliciously injuring some of the bush.


SUNDAY TIMES 20 December 1914 – The Christmas Bush of New South Wales (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) has flowered extremely well this year in the vicinity of Sydney and the Blue Mountains, and consequently large quantities of it are to be seen for sale in the city. The pleasure which a bunch of this beautiful blossom brings is to a large extent discounted to those who think of these things by the fact that at the rate the tree is now being destroyed it will soon become extremely scarce. Already one has to go a long way into the bush for it, owing to its wholesale destruction by flower-sellers, motor-car parties, and bicycle gangs. Some people do not seem to realise that there is any other way of picking it than by breaking down big branches. Even when it is not flowering it is cut down in a most shameful manner, and sold at the markets to the fruit-sellers for the decoration of their windows, while in some municipalities where the adorning of shopfronts with trees and greenery at this time of year is still allowed, Christmas bush is often largely used.

In my opinion, it is just as necessary that a Wild Flower Protection Act should be passed into law for the preservation of our native flora as it is to have Acts for the protection of birds and other animals.

Christmas bush verses by Annie MacDonald.

Below…..unloading the car after a festive Christmas shopping trip in 1935. The people are members of photographer Harold Cazneaux’s family. It definitely looks like Christmas Bush in the box.

Bringing home a box of Christmas Bush in the 1930s.
IMAGE BY HAROLD CAZNEAUX (National Library of Australia

Not everyone had the luxury of a motor vehicle.

In the city dozens of youngsters were selling Christmas bush. All day long they had voiced that tireless cry, “Christmas bush, 6d a bunch.” Hundreds of women bought it, raved about it, buried their faces in it. Heavens only knows how they carried the bunch of native flowers. Many already had sufficient parcels to fill a billy cart; but somehow they managed it, climbed into trams and buses, and even then could manage a smile. (Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate December 23 1939)

The same article noted that men tended to be a little more shy, trying to jam bunches in their pockets or wrapping them up in an afternoon newspaper. 😛

Christmas Bush stalls in Martin Place.

Christmas bush is now widely cultivated in private gardens. To be honest, I don’t think I have ever seen it growing wild. Mind you, I have tried to grow it in the upper Blue Mountains without much success. Maybe it’s too cold. Fortunately, gorgeous bunches are sold by Janette at our local newsagency here in Blackheath.

Christmas bush on sale in the Blue Mountains village of Blackheath.

After I published this piece there was a delightful response from Sharon Hayton;


1 Comment
  1. Fun facts about the Christmas Bush. It is on my list of plants to buy and grow in my bush garden. Thank you for sharing this informative message.

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