flowers from the land down under.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
Christmas bush, Festival bush
Photo courtesy of the
Australian Flower Export Council
1 Name calling.
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
2 The aussies have it.
Christmas bush is native to eastern Australia and New Guinea where it
grows wild in the open forests and rain forests. The plant is a shrubby
3 A flower or not?
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.
4 The greeks again.
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.
5 Opposite seasons.
Christmas bush is available from domestic growers mostly during the
spring and summer months and from Australian growers from November
through March. Check with your favorite supplier for availability in
advance of your need.
6 Well developed.
Purchase Christmas bush when two-thirds of the “flowers” are developed.
Shake the bunches to make sure there is no shedding, and look for signs
of wilt, bruising or rot.
7 Essential care.
Remove packaging and bindings from these flowers immediately upon their
arrival. Trim at least 1 inch from the stems with a sharp knife or
pruner, and remove all leaves that would fall below the water line. Dip
or place the stems into a hydration solution, then place them into a
clean container half filled with a properly prepared fresh flower food
8 Better chilled.
Place the flowers into a floral cooler at 34 F to 36 F, and allow them
to take up water for at least two hours before designing with or selling
them. Provide good air circulation, high humidity, light and flower food
to keep these botanicals looking their best.
9 A satisfying life.
With proper care, these vibrant flowers can last for up to two weeks.
Advise customers to recut the stems and change the water frequently and
to keep them away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
10 Versatile applications.
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.
Some information provided by:
Roy Borodkin, Brannan Street Wholesale Florist, San Francisco Flower
Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants (ASGAP),
Australian National Botanic Gardens,
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and
department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San
Francisco with 27 years of consulting and educational experience in the
floral industry. You may contact him by e-mail at
or by phone at (415) 239-3140.
• To read and see more,
to purchase the current issue of Florist's Review.