Bursaria spinosa is an erect, prickly shrub to about 3-4 metres tall widespread in open forest and woodland in coastal Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

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.

B. spinosa is an environmentally important native plant. The prickly branches provide secure nesting sites for small native birds.

It is a hardy species which prefers a sunny or lightly shaded situation in reasonably drained soils. Plants can become ‘leggy’, in the garden they can be pruned to promote a more bushy habit. On high sandy creekbanks with they do extremely well, even in dry periods.

The flowers are a source of nectar and attract a range of insects including Scolia sp which parasitise Scarab beetle larvae.

Photo: Robert Whyte

Flowers closeup

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.

Host plant locally for Bright Copper (Paralucia aurifer) and Fiery Copper (Paralucia pyrodiscus).

B. spinosa is important in the survival of the Bathurst Copper Butterfly (Paralucia spinifera) being its principal food plant. A planting and weed control programme is underway to ensure the survival of the Copper Butterfly in the Bathurst region.

Photo: Robert Whyte


This photo shows Bursaria spinosa growing next to a path in a park, protecting the nearby creek bank from large birds, cats, dogs and foxes.

Photo: Robert Whyte


Bursaria spinosa is easy to propagate from seed, even seed stored for several years.

Fruiting capsules in terminal bunches ripen from January-February through to March-April in cooler or high rainfall areas. Seed capsules split when ripe. Seeds can be collected on maturity when colour goes from pale green to brown.

Bursaria are one of the most important shrubs for attracting insects and butterflies when in flower and a large array of insects, beetles, spiders etc. when fruiting capsules are mature. Bursaria also supply an important source of nectar to native birds over the dryer summer months when little else is in flower (hence the common name Christmas Bush).

Photo: Robert Whyte