of the month
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Christmas bush or Festival
bush in the U.S.; New South Wales Christmas bush in Australia
and other parts of the world.
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
The most common color is
red, but these flowers are also available in pink, rose and
With proper care, these vibrant flowers can last for up to two
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.
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.
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.
Provide good air circulation, high humidity, light and flower
food to keep these botanicals looking their best.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Ceratopetalum gummiferum is native to southeastern Australia, particularly the coastal
forests of the state of New South Wales.
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
Hortus Third, by Liberty
Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners, by William