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christmas bush

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Ceratopetalum gummiferum
(ser-at-oh-PET-al-um  gum-MIF-er-um)
(also ker-at-oh-PET-al-um)

Christmas bush or Festival bush in the U.S.; New South Wales Christmas bush in Australia and other parts of the world.

Christmas bush inflorescences display masses of red sepals, which are commonly mistaken for flowers. The true flowers have small white petals and are relatively inconspicuous (see photo at bottom of page). As they mature, the sepals (four or five) enlarge and turn red, appearing flowerlike and showy. The foliage is also attractive; new growth is often pink or bronze.

The shiny leaves have “toothed” edges. Christmas bush plants are shrublike trees.

The most common color is red, but these flowers are also available in pink, rose and purplish-red varieties.

With proper care, these vibrant flowers can last for up to two weeks

Christmas bush is available from U.S. growers mostly during the spring and summer months (April through September) and from Australian growers from November through January. Check availability with your suppliers in advance of need.

PROCESSING Immediately upon arrival in your store, remove Christmas bush from the shipping boxes, and remove packaging and stem bindings. Next remove all leaves that would fall below the water line in the storage container(s), and recut the stems with a sharp knife or pruner, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Immediately after cutting, dip or place the stem ends into a hydration solution, then place them into containers half-filled with warm (100 F to 110 F), properly proportioned flower-food solution. The hydration solution will help the flowers absorb water after being shipped or stored dry.
REFRIGERATION After processing, place Christmas bush into a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F, and allow the stems to hydrate for at least two hours before using or selling them.
CARE EXTRA Provide good air circulation, high humidity, light and flower food to keep these botanicals looking their best.
CONSUMER ACTION The effects of ethylene gas on garden roses (premature petal drop or malformed flowers) varies by cultivar, but most varieties are at least moderately sensitive; therefore, make sure your flowers are treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower level or during transportation.
CARE EXTRA If garden roses become water stressed (premature wilting, bent neck, etc.), submerge the entire stems, up to the blooms, into room-temperature water for 20 minutes. Recut the stems under water, removing at least 1 inch of stem.
CONSUMER ACTION Advise customers to recut the stems and change the water every two or three days and to keep these flowers away from direct sunlight and other sources of heat.

fun facts


TIMM-BERRR In addition to being cultivated in Australia and throughout the Pacific region for their flowers, Ceratopetalum trees are valued for their light wood, which is used for paneling and cabinetry.

WHAT’S IN A NAME The genus name Ceratopetalum comes from the Greek words “keras,” meaning “horn,” and “petalon,” which means “petal,” referring to the hornlike shape of the sepals. The species epithet gummiferum refers to the gum that exudes from the bark of the plants.

FAMILY MATTERS Ceratopetalum is a member of the Cunoniaceae (Cunonia) family. Relatives include Ackama, Callicoma, Geissois and Weinmannia—plants native to Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and New Caledonia that are not widely known in the U.S.

HOME SWEET HOME Ceratopetalum gummiferum is native to southeastern Australia, particularly the coastal forests of the state of New South Wales.




purchasing tips

Buy Christmas bush when two-thirds of the flowers are developed. Shake the bunches to make sure there is no shedding. Also check for signs of wilt, bruising and rot.


Photos courtesy of Australian Flower Export Council (AFEC)

Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Dictionary of Plant Names, by Allen J. Coombes
Florists’ Review
Hortus Third, by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners, by William T. Stearn

Super Floral Retailing • Copyright 2009
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.