Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Bursaria spinosa Cav. subsp. spinosa

Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Leaves and Flowers. © CSIRO
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO

Cayzer, L.W., Crisp, M.D. & Tellford, I.R.H. (1999) Australian Systematic Botany 12(1): 127.

Common name

Orange, Mock; Spiny Bursaria; Mock Orange; Australian Blackthorn; Bursaria, Sweet; Blackthorn; Blackthorn, Australian; Blackthorn, Native; Box, Native; Box, Prickly; Box, Spiny; Prickly Box; Bursaria, Spiny; Spiny Box; Native Blackthorn; Native Box; Native Olive; Olive, Native; Pine, Prickly; Prickly Pine; Sweet Bursaria; Box, Thorn


Blaze conspicuously layered. Blaze odour resembling that of Pine (Pinus spp.).


Leaf blades quite small, about 15 x 4 mm, often arranged in clusters with a central spine. Midrib depressed on the upper surface. Spines axillary, about 5 mm long or longer and present on most leafy twigs.


Pedicels and calyx pubescent. Petals about 4-5 mm long.


Fruit a flat capsule about 4-6 mm long.


Cotyledons linear, about 10-12 x 1-1.5 mm, with an intramarginal vein. First pair of leaves with toothed and/or lobed margins. Most leaves (after the first few pairs of leaves) have a spine about 5 mm long in the axil and toothed stipule-like leaves on each side. Seed germination time 31 to 152 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Endemic to Australia, occurs in NEQ, CEQ and southwards to Victoria and South Australia. Altitudinal range in NEQ from 900-1100 m. Usually grows in open forest or wet sclerophyll forest, occasionally on rain forest margins.

Natural History & Notes

Food plant for the larval stages of the Bright Copper and Dull Copper Butterflies. Common & Waterhouse (1981).

This species has been used in modern medicine. The leaves contain aesculin which has several medical uses. Cribb (1981).

Bursaria spinosa Cav. var. spinosa, Linnaea 28 : 568(1857). Bursaria spinosa Cav. f. spinosa, Itinera Principum S. Coburgi 1: 53(1883). Bursaria spinosa Cav., Icones et descriptiones Plantarum 4 : 30(1797), Type: New South Wales, Between Port Jackson & Botany Bay,specimen not found; lecto: Plate. Fide Cayzer, L. W. et al. (1999). Bursaria spinosa var. pantonii Ewart, Flora of Victoria : 564(1931), Type: Port Fairy, 1895; National Park, 1909. Bursaria spinosa var. inernis Daveau, Dictionnaire d'Horticulture : 220(1899), Type: Orangerie Paris. Bursaria spinosa var. macrophylla Daveau, Dictionnaire d'Horticulture : 220(1899), Type: Orangerie Paris. Bursaria spinosa var. macrophylla Hook., Hooker's Journal of Botany 1 : 249(1834), Type: Dr. Scott. Mr. Gunn, (n. 115, 1832.). Bursaria spinosa var. microphylla Ewart, B.Rees & B.Wood, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria Series 2 23(1): 55(1910), Type: (not cited). Bursaria spinosa var. normalis Domin, Bibliotheca Botanica 89(4): 714(1928), Type: Exsiccata: SIEBER Pl. Novae Holl. No. 218. Bursaria spinosa var. lanceolata E.M.Benn., Nuytsia 2(4): 195(1975), Type: Stonyfell, Ferguson Park, South Australia, 1 Nov. 1971, K. Preiss 13 (HOLOTYPE: AD 97118145). Bursaria spinosa f. grandifolia Wawra, Itinera Principum S. Coburgi 1: 53(1883), Type: Australien. Coll. I 736 (Herb. F. v. Mueller). Bursaria spinosa f. subspinosa Domin, Bibliotheca Botanica 89(4): 715(1928), Type: Queensland: Tambourine Mts., haufig (DOMIN III. 1910). Bursaria pantonii Guilf., The Victorian Naturalist 17: 42(1901), Type: Near Melbourne to beyond Sale in Gippsland, and many other parts of Victoria, crossing the border into South Australia. Bursaria spinosa var. australis E.M.Benn., Nuytsia 2(4): 195(1975), Type: Ca. 1 km south of Freeling, South Australia, 27 Nov. 1965, D.N. Kraehenbuehl 1558 (HOLOTYPE: AD 96710134).
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