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NUYTSIA floribunda

Image of Nuytsia floribunda

James Burghardt

Family

Loranthaceae

Botanical Name

NUYTSIA floribunda

Plant Common Name

Australian Fire Tree, Australian Flame Tree, West Australian Christmas Tree

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Eluding cultivation because of its need for a host to grown on, the West Australian Christmas tree dazzles in its native habitat with an intense, golden orange flower display. In its natural range across extreme southwestern Western Australia, the blooming season coincides with the approach of Christmas, in late spring and very early summer. A distant relative to mistletoe, this evergreen tree attaches some of its roots onto the roots of any array of other plant species nearby for moisture and nutrient support. This parasite and host relationship prevents the widespread use of West Australian Christmas tree in cultivation. Although seeds may sprout in a nursery setting, seedlings wither away if there's no host plant -- woody shrub, tree or herbaceous perennial or grass -- to parasitize.

Growing slowly with a smooth, fissured gray-brown bark, it occasionally looks charcoal black because of seasonal bushfires in the wild. Fire may also kill back lower branches or those on the windward side of the moving flames. If never nipped by fire, the canopy is billowy and an upright oval. West Australian Christmas tree's evergreen leaves are bright green to gray-green and needle-like, or much like narrow willow leaves. After the cool, wet winter, the heat of late spring and the drying soil triggers a profuse display of mop-like but pompom-like clusters of tiny orange to gold flowers. Each blossom has six thin, golden yellow petals with a cluster of long orange stamens that attract a wide array of insects for pollination. Ensuing seed pods are globular with three papery keels or fins. Branched flower clusters may occur off and on into early or midsummer.

West Australian Christmas tree grows in acidic to neutral pH soil that is sandy or loam. The soil must be well-drained. A full sun exposure ensures a uniform canopy and abundant flowering. Keep the tree dry except in winter; it needs a long warm or hot summer season. Preserve this tree if naturally growing in an Australian landscape. Although horticulturists are continuing research, successfully propagating this plant remains difficult, preventing large-scale nursery production in containers.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 6

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 11

  • Sunset Zone

    13, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    12'-30' / 3.7m - 9.1m

  • Width

    6'-12' / 1.8m - 3.7m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer

  • Native To

    Australia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Xeric/Desert, Drought Tolerant

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Orange, Gold

  • Fruit Color

    Light Green, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Green

  • Bark Color

    Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Fissured

  • Usage

    Feature Plant

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No