One of the Best Street Trees: Buckinghamia celsissima

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This is Buckinghamia celsissima or the Ivory Curl tree, it is another small to medium tree that is in flower over the summer months, chances are you have seen it around, it is VERY hard to miss. I saw this one on a street in Mosman, I think it was planted by a resident as there weren’t any others in the street, I also wondered if someone had pruned it to have such a clean trunk…?


Buckinghamia celsissima occurs naturally in north eastern QLD, however they grow quite well on the NSW coast as long as there aren’t any frosts. In its natural rainforest habitat it will grow very tall to break through the canopy and reach the light, however the further south they are found and the colder the climate the smaller they grow, here in the Sydeny region you can expect them to be a maximum height of about 6 – 8 metres.


The flowers are very like a Grevillea spike flower and attract the bees with their prolific nectar, the flowers are almost 30cm long and cause the branches to drop down giving the tree a weeping habit.


When not in flower the leaves are quite stunning also, they have a beautiful bronze tinge in the new growth and the juvenile leave are deeply divided. Buckinghamia celsissima makes an excellent screening plant and also a good small shade tree, it will grow in shade but not flower particularly well. I would love to see more planted in our suburban Sydney streets.


36 responses to “One of the Best Street Trees: Buckinghamia celsissima”

  1. These are being planted prolifically by the council in Brisbane and, like you, I feel relief when a council gets it right. We have been rewarded over this last summer with Ivory Curls in full bloom, and looking beautiful.

  2. Shirl-ann Blake

    I love this tree , where can I buy one I live in Perth WA is it possible for me to import a small one ? And what do I do about quarantine. Any one have any ideas

    1. Linda

      Did you ever find this tree for sale in Perth? I am also looking for one.

      1. Kath Gadd

        Hi Perth residents,

        I would try, if anyone would have it they would or they would know where you can get it. I’m not sure how well it will grow over there though…..

        Good Luck,


        1. Xavier

          The celsissima or “ivory curl” doesn’t flower as well in southern states, due to the temperature, and will only grow to the size of a medium shrub. It won’t grow in Canberra due to frosts.

          1. Good specimen on the north lawn of the Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne, flowers well. Probably about 6 metres so far. No frosts in (central) Melbourne.

        2. Kiki

          Late reply but wondering if anyone has advice on shaping the tree? Do I underskirt to create classic tree shape? Currently about 2.5m with growth off main stem right down to about .5m from ground.


  3. Nan Bailey

    These a really beautiful trees but they can grow quite tall. I had one in my front garden in Kuranda north Queensland, not far behind the power lines, but not underneath either. I came home one day to find the electricity company had cut it down at ground level, because it was a “danger to the continued power supply during the cyclone season”. I was livid, but it was too late. The tree did regrow, and became multi trunked with a horrible shape

  4. I know of one that’s growing well in Newcastle, NSW, and flowering prolifically. The bees love it.

    1. Amy

      Do you know where. Im planting a couple in Newcastle for privacy and wondered how they would form as they matured.

      1. Kath Gadd

        Hi Amy,

        they have a very dense canopy so should work really well for a privacy screen, provided you are trying to screen high up? from around 1.5 metres up?

        Best Wishes,


  5. Gail Black

    My tree is getting too tall for its position. If I have it heavily pruned back to bare branches, will it re-grow again? Am worried I’ll lose its lovely round shape. Usually only prune back behind spent blooms. Appreciate advice.

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Gail,

      Yes, Buckinghamia celsissima respond vey well to pruning, you can take of around 30% and it will increase the density of its canopy.

      Best Wishes,


  6. Dianne Burgess

    My Ivory Curl hedge is about 15 years old and the leaves are dying off leaving gapping holes in the canapy. The lilli pilles are doing the same. Any solutions to save my trees.

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Dianne,

      Whereabouts are you located? have you checked for borer or caterpillar attack?
      I would give them all a tree tablet fertiliser and several deep waters over the next few weeks. Also giving them a prune should help encourage a new flush of growth.

      Best Wishes,


    2. Russell

      I have a similar problem of leaves dropping and have lost 50% of the leaves internally

      We live in Brisbane and the Council planted the tree 12 months ago, along with a tree for my next door neighbour. His is doing very well and not a leave has dropped.😞

      The tree has new growth as we have had a fairly wet summer and numerous flowers

      Please help

      1. Kath Gadd

        Hi Russell,

        Any evidence of disease or pests? Have you been pruning? You could also try a tree tablet fertiliser. If your neighbour’s tree is doing very well it could also be something to do with the health of your soil.


  7. Tina

    Can anyone tell me if they are messy trees as I am thinking of planting one in a cemetery. Do the flowers look messy when they fall off and die at all? And where it will be planted is in line with a automatic sprinkler so does it thrive in a lot of watering?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Tina,

      All trees will drop leaves and spent flowers and due to the extra large size of this trees flowers it can create a bit of mess.
      Buckinghamia celsissima doesn’t love water though and should be happy under the sprinter as long as your soil is well drained.

      Best Wishes,


  8. I want to grow some trees for privacy from the neighbours. Their property is one metre higher than ours and they have a second story deck. I’m guessing I’d need a height of about 5 metres and a narrow spread as it will be close to their bouondry and the ground is clay. I am just north of Newcastle on the coast. Will this tree work and if not can you recommend something preferably native which will also attracted birds.
    Thank you

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Trish,

      I think the Buckinghamia would work, however it is not particularly narrow in habit.
      You might also like to consider Eleaocarpus reticulatus, Eleaocarpus eumndi, Ceratopetalum gummiferum, Randia fitzalanii or Acronychia oblongifolia.

      Hope this helps,

      Best Wishes,


  9. Cathy Ryan

    Our 2 buckinhamia are flowering beautifully at present. The scent is divine. The tops were pruned about 6 months ago due to power lines close by & they look fantastic. Is it best to prune spent flower spikes to encourage flowering next year?

    1. Sue Mcintyre

      I have an ivory curl , it has lower weeping branches and is growing quite slender. It stands approx 8ft I had hoped it would be more bushy and provide screening. I am at Coffs Harbour, sandy soils, and shade with filtered sun. If i reduce the height will it send more shoots and bush out?

      1. Kath Gadd

        Hi Sue,

        Yes, if you want the tree to become wider and more bushy you just need to lop the top off, I would start by pruning about 25%.



  10. Barb Filler

    There is a tree near me in Adelaide with these beautiful trees. So they grow here in the Southern parts of Australia well. They are covered with flowers and bees at the moment. Simply divine!

  11. Heather

    We have one in our area of the Central Coast, NSW. It was so stunning when in flower that I have since planted one in my own garden. Looking forward to watching it take shape.

  12. laurence levy

    I planted a buckinghamia 6 months ago and all the new shoot tips seem to constantly burn, or look as though they have. It gets plenty of water. What could be causing this problem?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Lawrence,

      Whereabouts is your garden? is it possible the damage is caused by frost or wind? if you could send me some photos I might be able to give further advice.



  13. Grahame Byrnes

    I like and have been recommended to plant the Buckinghamia Celsissimma. I require a native tree to comply with council regulations after the removal of a defective extremely large Lillipillie. The issue is I have a small courtyard garden area and I do not want a tree to dominate the area nor block light from my neighbours as with the original Lillipillie. Can the Buckinghamia Celsissimma be pruned to keep around 3metres x 3metres? I live on the Northern Beaches of Sydney.

    Many Thanks


    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Grahame,

      Yes, you could prune it and keep it to that size but it would probably require very regular pruning and maintenance as it likes to grow taller than 3m. Have you been asked to choose from a list from council? 3m x 3m is more of a shrub size than a tree size in most cases. My other recommendations would be the following,

      – Myoporum acuminatum
      – Ceratopetalum gummiferum, Christmas bush
      – A Callistemon cultivar such as ‘In June’ or ‘Sugar Candy’ that will grow roughly to your desired size
      – Leptospermum laevigatum, coastal tea tree
      – Eucalyptus ‘Dwarf Orange’, a cultivar euc that only grows to 3m
      – Tristaniopsis laurina ‘Luscious’

      It’d be good to think about how much sunlight the space gets and your soil type before choosing as well.

      All the best!

  14. Frank

    Thanks for your information.
    We have several Ivory Curl. 2 by Brisbane City Council as Street trees. One of these is shedding blackened leaves. It has recently flowered, the other tree not flowered. Are blackened leaves a sign of disease or part of the flowering/fruiting cycle?

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Frank,

      A couple of other commenters have mentioned leaf die-off in Brisbane now so I am curious about what is going on. Blackened leaves aren’t part of the flowering/fruiting cycle, have you checked the leaves over for pest attack or disease? What has the weather been like there? It’s possible the leaves are burning/wind damage or it could be a You can always try a tree tablet fertiliser and several deep waters over the next few weeks. If you send some photos I might be able to give some more specific advice

  15. Paul

    Hi, I was wondering how well an ivory curl would do in Townsville? We have very humid summers here and I have read that it will not flower as well. Looking at this species to replace a macadamia tree Thanks

    1. Kath Gadd

      Hi Paul,
      Buckinghamia celsissima occurs naturally north West of Townsville so I don’t think you should have a problem with it flowering. It belongs to the Proteaceae family which tends to flower better when neglected a little 😉
      Best Wishes,

  16. Maureen Jones

    I have an Ivory Curl, growing beautifully in Sydney. It is now about 3 metres tall.
    Pruning: the tree has a very straight trunk and I want to keep it to about 8m.
    Will removing the lower branches that touch the ground inhibit its natural shape?

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