prickly box (Bursaria spinosa)

Size: 
3-8 metres high - a shrub or small tree
Form: 
Tree
Natural Distribution: 
Common and widespread throughout Tasmania and south-east mainland Australia in dry forests and woodlands.
Description: 

The best features of prickly box are its masses of cream-coloured fragrant flowers followed by attractive bunches of brown seed capsules - both lasting on the plant for many months.

Aboriginal people found its timber made good waddies (clubs). They also sucked nectar from its flowers.

Early European settlers found the leaves contained an oil which helped prevent sunburn.

Its fibrous roots are good for erosion control.

'Bursaria' comes from the Latin word 'bursa', which means purse - referring to the seed capsules which are shaped like a pouch. 'Spinosa' comes from the Latin word 'spinosus' - referring to the spines on the young branches.

Prickly box scented cream flowers are produced mainly from October to February, but can be found on the plant year-round.

Habitat Value:

Prickly box is an important food plant for many insects, including beetles, butterflies, moths, caterpillars and ants. Jewel beetle larvae can be found living in tunnels in dead and dying branches. Bushier forms of the plant also provide a safe haven for small birds and bandicoots. 

(Photos:  Naomi Lawrence and Fiona Rice)

STUDENT INQUIRY QUESTIONS

Why is it useful for a plant to have flowers which smell really good?

How many seeds inside one seed capsule?