Bossiaea kiamensis

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect to procumbent shrub, potentially reaching 4 metres high but often smaller. 

It is endemic to NSW, growing south from around the Bowral-Robertson area in the southern highlands of NSW, south to between Braidwood and Nelligen. 

It is found in dry sclerophyll woodland and shrublands to moister forests in sheltered site (close to rainforest in some cases), on sandstone-based soils and enriched sandy soils as well as rocky sites. (This Editor has seen a lot of plants around Belmore Falls near Robertson and in bushland in the Wildes Meadow-area). 

Young stems are usually covered with white hairs. 

Bossiaea spp. have two ‘versions’ of foliage. Some species have simple leaves (or described as uni-foliolate), arranged alternately or oppositely. 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 present, arranged in opposite pairs, narrow-elliptic or narrow oblong, to 35 mm long and to 7 mm wide, with a short point (mucro) on the apex; green to blue-green in colour; darker above and paler below with hairs on a petiole to 2 mm long. Stipules are dark brown, 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 produced mostly solitarily in leaf-axils, to 12 mm long; the standard and wings are yellow-orange with red markings; the keel is red.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, it is oblong-ovate, 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. 

Not a lot is currently known about the cultivation potential of this species. Check with native nurseries for availability. It likely needs a well-drained sandy soil to grow well. It is an attractive plant in terms of foliage and flowers. 


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 similiar. 

Seed, however, is not often available. 

Cuttings strike reasonably well from firm, current season’s growth.

Other information

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.

kiamensis Latin referring to Kiama – likely where this species was first collected from for its description.

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

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

Wikipedia – Bossiaea kiamensis profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bossiaea_kiamensis

By Jeff Howes and Dan Clarke