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.
Propagation is from from seed, which germinates readily, or cuttings.
Photo: Brian Walters