Plants of
South Australia
Bursaria spinosa ssp. spinosa
Christmas Bush,
Sweet Bursaria,
South Australian Christmas Bush
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Regional Species Conservation Assessments per IBRA subregion.
Least concern
Near threatened
Critically endangered
Data deficient
Coober Pedy
Mount Gambier
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock paintings: 9

Prior names

Bursaria pantonii

Cyrilla spinosa

Bursaria spinosa var. pantonii

Bursaria spinosa var. obovata

Bursaria spinosa var. microphylla

Bursaria spinosa var. macrophylla

Bursaria spinosa var. lanceolata

Bursaria spinosa var. australis

Itea spinosa

Common names

Christmas Bush

Sweet Bursaria

South Australian Christmas Bush


Bursaria from the Latin 'bursa' meaning a purse or pouch, referring to the shape of the fruit. Spinosa from the Latin 'spinosus' meaning thorny, referring to the spines that were present on the type specimen but not present on all plants. Those from drier sites tend to be spinescent but those from well-watered areas tend to be spineless.

Distribution and status

Found across the southern regions of South Australia east of Ceduna and south of Arkaroola, growing in a variety of habitat and soil types. Also found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Native. Common in South Australia. Common in the other States.
Herbarium regions: Flinders Ranges, Eastern, Eyre Peninsula, Northern Lofty, Murray, Yorke Peninsula, Southern Lofty, Kangaroo Island, South Eastern, Green Adelaide
NRM regions: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, Northern and Yorke, South Australian Arid Lands, South Australian Murray-Darling Basin, South East
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Tall, low branching shrub or small tree to 10 m with lance-shaped aromatic leaves that alternate or clustered at the base of the spine. Branches sometimes with small thorns. Inflorescence an open pyramid-shaped spike with numerous white flowers. Flowering between November and March. This subspecies differs from the other subspecies Bursaria spinosa ssp. lasiophylla which have dense white or greyish hairs on the underside of the leaves. Fruits are flattened capsules to 8 mm long and 10 mm wide, brown when mature and containing two seeds. Seeds are flat orange-brown bean-shaped seeds to 5 mm long and 3 mm across. Seed embryo type is linear fully developed.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between February and April. Collect maturing capsules individually or break off whole stems. The capsules should be drying off and turning brown with orange seeds inside. Do not collect capsules that have split open as the seed has already been released. Place the capsules in a tray, cover with paper and leave to dry for 1 to 2 weeks or until the capsules split. Then place the capsules in a bucket with a lid if possible and shake gently to dislodge the seeds. Use a sieve to separate the unwanted material. Store the seeds with a desiccant such as dried silica beads or dry rice, in an air tight container in a cool and dry place. Seed viability is usually high. Viable should germinate readily when sown in winter.

Seeds stored:
LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
of plants
Collection number
Collection location
% ViabilityStorage
29,000 (55.97 g)
29,000 (55.97 g)
Southern Lofty
BGA44,400 (63.9 g)50+7-Mar-2006TEE12
Yorke Peninsula
Location: BGA — the seeds are stored at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, MSB — the seeds are stored at the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew, England.
Number of plants: This is the number of plants from which the seeds were collected.
Collection location: The Herbarium of South Australia's region name.
% Viability: Percentage of filled healthy seeds determined by a cut test or x-ray.
Germination table: