Sweet bursaria has many different names depending on where you live in Australia. Perhaps the most common alternative for this species is ‘blackthorn’. Bursaria occurs through southern South Australia, virtually all of Victoria, Tasmania and in eastern New South Wales and Queensland.
This shrub or small tree occurs very widely and commonly as an understorey species in Victoria’s sambar country. Sweet bursaria varies greatly in characteristics in different areas but in most situations it is a spindly shrub on drier sites. However, it can grow to a medium-sized tree in gullies and coastal areas such as at Victoria’s Blond Bay State Game Reserve. Leaves too are very variable in size but occur in clusters and are relatively small, and paler green on the under surface. Over the late spring and summer months, masses of white star-shaped flowers are produced. After flowering green heart-shaped flat seed capsules are produced which turn brown as the seeds mature. As you would suspect from the scientific name, Bursaria spinosa, thorns are usually, but not always, present.
Sweet bursaria is in the same family as the pittosporums (sweet pittosporum and banyalla) so it is perhaps not surprising that it too is a favoured food plant of the sambar. The fact that it usually carries thorns to discourage browsing animals also indicates that its foliage will be worth eating. Leaves and twigs often show evidence of browsing and branches may be broken down.
Too spindly and sparse to provide much in the way of shade or cover in cold or wet conditions, sweet bursaria does however get quite a bit of attention from stags and is a commonly used rub tree by both sambar and hog deer.