Bossiaea buxifolia

Matted Bossiaea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A prostrate to weakly erect shrub that grows to potentially around 1 to 1.5 m tall but is often seen around 0.5 m tall. 

It has a large geographic range in NSW, found over most of the southern and central coast and tablelands botanical divisions, extending into the central western slopes and scattered on the north coast and tablelands, west to around Dubbo and possibly Tocumwal (west of Albury). It extends into Queensland through the coastal interior and further inland, as far north as Kroombit Tops National Park (south-west of Gladstone) and to the south-west of Carnarvon Gorge and Rolleston. It is common in Victoria in the north-eastern parts, extending west, sporadically, to Ballarat-region.

It is found in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, often on sandy soils and rocky outcrops.

Bossiaea spp. have two ‘versions’ of foliage. Some species have simple leaves (sometimes described as uni-foliolate), which can be alternate or oppositely arranaged. Other species have leaves reduced with flattened or winged stems modified to cladodes, with mostly only juvenile growth having small leaves. As this is a member of the ‘pea’ family, stipules are present though usually small. In this species, true leaves are arranged alternately, elliptic to ovate or more or less round, mostly to 5 mm long and to 5 mm wide, green to bluey-green in colour, with the upper surface darker than the lower. The stipules are to 2 mm long.

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 born mostly solitarily in leaf axils, on short side branches, to 10 mm long. The standard is orange-yellow with red marking, lighter on the inner or upper surface and darker on the outside; wings are orange-yellow with red markings and the keel is purple. Flowering occurs from spring to early summer.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, the pod is oblong, to 20 mm long. 

In the garden

Bossiaea species are a particular attractive garden plant of the “bacon and eggs” element of the Australian bush. However they are not often cultivated but are sometimes grown by Australian plant enthusiasts. When species such as B. heterophylla, B. walkeri and B. scolopendria are seen in the wild in full flower, it is hard not to ask “Can I grow this one?”

Reportedly, they are easy enough to grow. It may be simply a matter of acquiring seeds or tubestock from native nurseries or online. Some species are known for not setting a lot of seed and seed can also be hard to germinate in some cases. If plants or seeds can be sourced, they are generally readily cultivated in a sunny well drained position. 

This species has neat foliage and a spreading growth good for a fore ground plant in a rockery. It can also be grown in a pot. Very attractive in flower. 


Propagation of Bossiaea seeds needs treatment before sowing. This is done by allowing the seeds, which have a hard seed coat, to stand in boiled water for 12 hours. The softened seeds then swell and are ready for sowing. The seeds are best sown in a mixture of three parts coarse sand and one part peat moss or similar. 

Seed, however, is not often available. 

Other information

This species can look very similar and may even intergrade with Bossiaea prostrata. This species is a larger plant, being generally more erect, with denser and shorter leaves and shorter flower peduncles.

Bossiaea is a genus of at least 50 species (likely more), endemic to Australia. They are found in all States and are mostly small to medium shrubs. NSW currently recognises 30 species. 

This species grows in fire-prone habitats and likely regenerates from seed after fire.

Bossiaeanamed after Joseph Hugues Boissieu de la Martinière (1758-1788), a physician and plant collector who participated in the expedition of Jean-Francois de La Perouse in 1785. He disappeared in the Pacific whilst a member of this expedition when ships were lost in the Solomon Islands. The genus was named by botanist Etienne Pierre Ventenat.

buxifoliaLatin referring to Buxus the genus of ‘box-shrubs’ referring to the Box-like foliage.

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

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2013). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. Reed New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia. Pages 285 and 286: Bossiaea and Bossiaea buxifolia profiles.

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

Wikipedia – Bossiaea buxifolia profile page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bossiaea_buxifolia

By Jeff Howes and Dan Clarke