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The young flowers are creamy white in colour whereas the mature flowers turn reddish orange.

Ceratopetalum gummiferum, the New South Wales Christmas Bush, is a tall shrub or small tree popular in cultivation. The shrub starts flowering in November. The young flowers are creamy white in colour and later turn to reddish orange. The reddish orange structures are sepals not petals. The sepals turn bright red-pink around Christmas time. The petals are inconspicuous and slit into narrow segments. After the flower sets fruit, the sepals enlarge to about 12 mm and become red in colour, the display peaking at Christmas time.

A mature orange red flower and young creamy white flowers
A mature orange red flower and young creamy white flowers. The flowers have 5 showy sepals and 5 inconspicuous petals.
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The back view of the same bunch of flowers. The image shows that the  5 reddish orange sepals are attached directly to the peduncle (flower stalk).

 

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The 5 petals are tiny and slit into narrow segments or fork like. Stamens (male parts) and pistil (female part) are protected by the petals.
After the sepals and petals have been removed, 10 stamens and the stigma & style are visible.
After the sepals and petals have been removed, 10 stamens and the stigma & style are visible.
The anthers of the stamens
The anthers of the stamens

 

A young flower in the transient stage of changing from creamy white to reddish orange
A young flower in the transient stage of changing from creamy white to reddish orange.

 

After the sepals and petals have been removed, 10 stamens and the stigma are visible
After the sepals and petals have been removed, 10 stamens and the stigma are visible.

 

A very young flower in creamy white. This flower has 4 sepals and 4 petals.
A very young flower in creamy white. This flower has 4 sepals and 4 petals.

 

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The bifurcate stigma as seen under the microscope

Leaves: 3-foliated (comprising three leaflets), opposite, thin, fairly soft, finely toothed, hairless. The length can be up to 8 cm long. The petioles are grooved on the upper side and are 10 to 20 mm long.

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The shrub produces gum in the stem. This is how the shrub is named Ceratopetalum gummiferum. When the bark is cut, gum is discharged.

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The bark of the stem
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Christmas bush can grow to about two storeys high.

 

The beautiful bouquets have been used as a decoration since early colonial times. ‘For some days before Christmas, in our drives near the town, we used to meet numbers of persons carrying bundles of a beautiful native shrub, to decorate the houses, in the same manner that we use holly and evergreens at home…’ Historical Records of NSW, letter dated 18 Nov 1788.

 

“Advent in Australia reveals our land in blossom. Nature bursts forth in a spectrum of colour: the blues and purples of jacaranda and bush flowers, the red of Christmas Bush and the flame tree, the reds and the greens of new gum-tree growth. And the sun climbs up in the sky and burns with intensity.

People, too, may see a change of season, not just in the world around us but deep in the heart and soul. We await a new season of grace to drive away the darkness of fear, selfishness and sin” Advent Liturgy of Light, 2015

 

Photograph of a bunch of Christmas bush
Photograph of a bunch of Christmas bush

 

 

Drawings of the Christmas bush

drawing
Botanical drawing of the Christmas Bush from Morley, B.D. & Toelken, H.R. (1983) Flowering Plants in Australia, Rigby Publishers (ISBN 0 7270 1477 3)

 

The botanical drawing shows more features than the photograph above. A good botanical drawing can show more vividly the beauty of the flowers. Photography cannot replace drawing and painting. In close up photography, some parts of the image are sharp and clear but other parts may be blurry. Drawing does not not have this narrow depth-of-field problem.

More details can be put into a drawing to emphasize some important features of the botanical specimen as in the following drawing found in Wikipedia.

drawing
A botanical drawing of a bunch of Christmas bush shown in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceratopetalum_gummiferum

Bibliography :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceratopetalum_gummiferum

http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=fm&name=Cunoniaceae

Morley, B.D. & Toelken, H.R. (1983) Flowering Plants in Australia,  Rigby Publishers (ISBN 0 7270 1477 3

Blombery, A. M (1973) What Wildflower is That? Summits Book (ISBN 0 7271 0109 9)

 

 

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