Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bursaria Spinosa - Landscaping for small birds

Bursaria spinosa

Family:     Pittosporaceae
Distribution:     Widespread in open forest and woodland in coastal Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
Common Name:     Blackthorn; sweet bursaria; Christmas bush
Derivation of Name:   
Bursaria...from Latin, bursa, a purse, alluding to the purse-like seed capsules.
spinosa... From Latin spinosus, spiny or thorny, referring to the spiny branches.
Conservation Status:     Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

 Bursaria spinosa is an erect, prickly shrub to about 3-4 metres tall. The leaves are an elongated oval shape 20-45 mm long and up to 12 mm wide, green above and hairy beneath. The flowers are creamy-white, sweetly scented, about 7-10 mm in diameter and borne in dense terminal panicles. Flowers are usually seen in mid summer, around Christmas time, which gives rise to the common name of 'Christmas Bush' in Tasmania and South Australia. Flowers are followed by flattened, purse-shaped seed capsules about 10 mm x 10 mm.

Blackthorn is not especially popular in cultivation because of its prickly habit. However, it is a very useful plant, not only for its summer flowering but its dense, prickly branches provide protection for smaller birds against predators. The flowers are also an important source of nectar for butterflies. It is a hardy species which prefers a sunny or lightly shaded situation in most reasonably drained soils. Plants can become 'leggy' and annual pruning is desirable to promote a more bushy habit. Bursaria will often colonise cleared land.


  1. Thanks for the info! We are about to plant 100 of these and others to support a small bird habitat to link the UQ lakes to the river. Ian Lowndes

    1. Good luck with it Ian. You should throw in some Spiny Bush Pea (Pultenaea spinosa)to vary the landscape a bit.