Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NSW Christmas Bush on edge of Barrengarry Mountain

The NSW Christmas Bush Ceratopetalum gummiferum is not rare, but it is certainly not common in this Southern Highlands district. I have seen a dense stand of these trees out on Meryla Pass Road, way out along that road, some 8 kms beyond "Manchester Square". But this season I have seen these NSW Christmas Bushes flowering at the top of the Barrengarry Mountain pass (on the Nowra to Fitzroy Falls road). These plants are growing on each side of the council border, between Wingecarribee Shire and Shoalhaven Shire. So, some of them are clearly within the Southern Highlands region.

NSW Christmas bush in full colour
on the top edge of Barrengarry Mountain
Most of the Barrengarry climb takes you through dense, wet rainforest. There the dominant trees (the noticeable ones in flower at present, anyway, are Coachwoods. Their reddish-brown "flowers" (bracts actually) make these huge trees clearly visible at present. However, as one approaches the top of the hill, one gets to a shelf, where you are above the rainforest, and starting to enter the drier Eucalypt and Hakea forest. And there is a power line easement where the larger Eucalypts have been removed, but the mid-sized Christmas Bushes have not been removed. So they are receiving full sun, which they obviously love, and they are in full colour at present.
A low growing branch of NSW Christmas Bush
at eye height.
The 6 to 9 inch thick trunk is visible behind the "flowers".
So, by my reckoning these would be classed as small trees.

Their fruiting bodies (the calyx and the nut which forms once the flowers have finished) are bright red. Their calyxes are considerable redder than the closely related Coachwood trees, growing at a lower level in the wet forest. The area where these Christmas Bushes are growing has large sandstone rocky outcrops. But the edge of the sandstone escarpment is blunted here. It is not a cliff line (that is below). So the simplest way to describe where they are growing is to refer to it as a shelf, just above the Kangaroo Valley (Barrengarry) escarpment. 

Sepals and the nut of NSW Christmas Bush
showing its true, bright colour.
This shows small whispy "petals"
surrounding the "nut"
- a feature missing in the
related plant - the Coachwood.

The leaf of the NSW Christmas Bush is trifoliate.
Each leaflet has a prominent rib
which is set in a channel.
Leaflet edges are finely toothed.
By contrast, the Coachwood is classed as 1-foliate.
It has a much larger, longer single-bladed leaf.

The under-side of the NSW Christmas Bush leaf.
It shows distinct, fine venations
with a central rib clearly prominent on each leaflet.
The leaf edges are finely toothed.

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