New crops - reinvented

The information in this document forms part of the publication Growing Australian native flowers commercially.

Many of the crops that have forged ahead are ‘old crops’ that have been ‘reinvented’ to build product appeal.

Ceratopetalum gummiferum (NSW Christmas bush, Festival bush)

Christmas bush

Ceratopetalum gummiferum

This is estimated to be the fastest growing export crop in eastern Australia. As the common name suggests, this has been a traditional seasonal favourite in Sydney, where for many years high prices were achieved during the 2 weeks before Christmas. Even poor quality stems could be sold during this period. In contrast, prices either side of this period were generally low. Historically this led to marginal returns for domestic producers who could not manage to harvest all of their crop in the 2-week Christmas period.

In recent years, the availability of quality product has extended domestic acceptance to the whole month of December, and even longer in export markets, particularly Japan. Christmas bush is now an extremely lucrative crop, leading to an exponential rise in plantings, with current estimates now easily breaking 100 000 plants (these estimates are based on known grower numbers). Many of these plants are yet to reach full maturity.

There is strong reliance on one variety, Albery’s Red, which is well received in markets worldwide. New varieties are becoming available. This crop is susceptible to frost and does not tolerate hot weather after flowering if water supply is inadequate.

Key references

Worrall, R & Dalley, P 1998, ‘NSW Christmas bush’, in The New Rural Industries — A Handbook for Farmers and Investors, RIRDC, Canberra.

Carson, C et al.  2000, ‘Christmas Bush (Festival Bush)’, in Should I grow wildflowers?, Agrilink Horticulture Series QAL 0001, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane. For more information contact Queensland Department of Primary Industries.

Telopea speciosissima (Waratah)

Flannel flowers

Telopea speciosissima

NSW waratah is one crop that has returned to favour partly based on NSW patriotic fervour. With strong prices on the domestic market for large-headed varieties, growers have planted tens of thousands of waratahs, often with little thought to trends in future varietal demand. Although large-headed varieties command higher prices at the Sydney Flower Market, it appears that returns for export are lower, particularly after considering the freight costs.

On the export market, waratahs are hindered by:

  • their relatively short season of availability
  • a relatively high freight cost per stem
  • competition from other southern hemisphere producers.

In contrast, smaller headed waratahs such as the green-bracted variety, which often have higher yields per plant, are providing better returns.

The best returns on both the domestic and export markets, however, have been achieved with quality (no bract browning) and white forms.

In recent years there has been a trend away from seedlings to selected varieties. Varieties with proven market appeal are now more widely available and are being grown commercially. However, there is a clear need for good flower grading on-farm and improved quality in order to receive premium prices. Bract browning remains a serious problem, affecting marketability on both domestic and export markets.

Key references

Martyn, A et al.  2002, ‘Effect of shade cloth, irrigation frequency and calcium sprays on bract browning in waratahs (Telopea spp.)’, in Proceedings 6th Australian Wildflower Conference, 30 May–1 June 2002, Warwick Farm, Sydney. Copies available from NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Tranter D 1998, ‘Protea, leucodendron and waratah’, in The New Rural Industries — A Handbook for Farmers and Investors, RIRDC, Canberra.

Worrall R 1997, Growing waratahs commercially, Agnote DPI-193, 2nd edition, NSW Department of Primary Industries (then NSW Agriculture).

The Waratah Industry Network

The Waratah Industry Network (WIN) is a forum for waratah growers and users, breeders, propagators and researchers to collectively solve major production and marketing constraints concerning the waratah. WIN is an autonomous group, linked to the Australian Native Flower Growers and Promoters Inc. To find out more about WIN, please contact:

Australian Native Flower Growers and Promoters
PO Box 4327
East Gosford  NSW  2250