CHRISTMAS BUSH (Ceratopetalum / Christmas bush or Festival bush)
Pronounced “SER-ah-toe-pet-all-um,” the genus Cera-topetalum is a member of the Cunoniaceae family and comprises only five species. C. gummiferum, commonly known as New South Wales Christmas bush, is the most familiar. In the United States, suppliers market it either as Christmas bush or festival bush.
The name Ceratopetalum comes from the Greek words “keras,” which means “horn,” and “petalon,” which means “petal,” referring to the hornlike shape of the sepals. The species name gummiferum refers to the gum that exudes from the bark of the plant.
The Christmas bush is widely cultivated in Australia and throughout the Pacific region as a cut flower as well as a source of light wood for paneling, cabinetry and plywood.
The inflorescences display masses of red sepals, which are commonly mistaken for flowers. The true flowers are inconspicuous, white and appear in late spring. As the flowers die, the calyces enlarge, turn papery and exhibit a warm carmine color, looking like four or five petals. The foliage of the plant is also very attractive; new growth is often pink or bronze.
Christmas bush is available from domestic growers mostly during the spring and summer months and from Australian growers from November through March. With proper care, these vibrant flowers can last for up to two weeks.
This relatively new flower to the American market is a striking accent floral for mixed designs, and it blends especially well with roses. Designers experienced with this botanical suggest that it is best used in vase arrangements.