Aotus ericoides

Golden Pea, Common Aotus

Family: Fabaceae subfam Faboideae

A variable shrub that may grow up to 2 metres, usually with an erect habit consisting of many narrow stems. The stems are often covered in short, matted, rusty or greyish-coloured hairs. 

It has a large natural range, growing mainly along the entirety of the coast of NSW, extending just into the tableland-regions around Goulburn, Glen Innes-Tenterfield and Canberra. It extends into Queensland, as far north as the Shoalwater Bay Region.

It extends in Victoria where it grows along the coastal areas and, surprisingly, much further west than in NSW – extending to Hawkesdale and the Grampians National Park. 

It is found in a range of habitats from dry sclerophyll woodlands and forests to heathlands and shrublands. It is usually found on sandy and sandstone soils. 

Aotus is a member is a member of the “pea” family. This generally means that leaves are alternate with stipules at the base of the petioles. In this species, leaves are somewhat inconsistent; they can be alternate, opposite, or in whorls of 3, usually dark green above and somewhat tuberculate, ovate to lanceolate or linear-elliptic, to 20 mm long and 5 mm wide with margins recurved. The under-surface is usually paler and always has a distinctive lined-appearance due to the mid-vein and margins which aids identification. In addition, there are no stipules.

Flowers are, of course, pea-shaped (a term sometimes used is papilionate), with 5 petals in a fixed arrangement; the main back petal is called the “standard”, two lateral petals called “wings” and two fused petals at the bottom called the “keel” (in which the anthers and one carpel tend to be hidden). In this species, flowers are produced in upper leaf axils, either solitarily or in clusters, about 10 mm long and wide, bright-yellow in colour with a red-orange marking on the keel, occurring in late winter to spring.

All peas produce fruits known as pods. In this species, they are to 7 mm long with hairs and appear swollen. 

In the garden

This plant can be grown successfully but may not be that reliable (like some other pea-shrubs).

(This Editor recently purchased two plants from Sutherland Shire Bushcare Nursery and they are growing very well in a sandstone-sloping garden…after about a year). 

In a garden situation it prefers well-drained sandy or loam soils in full sun or semi shade. Good for exposed coastal sites.

They are a very attractive shrub in flower. A good plant to grow on a slope in a rocky or sandy area. 


Best propagated from seed, treated with boiling water or scarification before sowing.

Other information

Aotus is an endemic Australian genus of 15 species, occurring in all states except the Northern Territory.

This species regenerates readily from seed after fire and is often prolific after a bushfire in its habitats. 

Aotusderived from the Ancient Greek – ôtos (ὦτος) which refers to the Horned or Eared-Owl. A-otus means “without ears” and refers to the lacking or missing bracteoles on the calyx (which many pea-genera have). 

ericoidesrefers to the similarity to a species of the genus Erica. The suffix – oides is a Latin ending meaning “likeness”.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. 

NSW Flora online (PlantNET) Aotus ericoides profile page:              https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Aotus~ericoides

Wikipedia profile page for Aotus ericoides https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aotus_ericoides

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.