Bossiaea lenticularis

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A slender spreading shrub that typically grows to a height of up to 1 metre with a spread to 1 metre wide.

It has a comparatively smaller geographic distribution compared to other species in the genus, only mainly found in the greater Sydney area in the central coast botanical subdivision; found as far south as near Bargo, north-west to Lithgow and north-east of here to Wisemans Ferry and Colo. 

It is found in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, often in moist-shady situations on sandstone-derived soils and shale-sandstone transition. 

Bossiaea spp. have two ‘versions’ of foliage. Some species have simple leaves (sometimes 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 oppositely and with a regularly uniform structure, mostly round in shape, to 8 mm long or in diameter; blue-green in colour, with the upper surface darker than the lower; with stipules up to 1 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 borne singularly in the leaf axils, to 12 mm long, on pedicels to 5 mm long. The standard and wings are mostly-yellow with red markings; the keel is deep reddish. Flowering occurs from August to September.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, it is to 3 cm long, obovate to oblong.

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 grows well in a well-drained sandy soil. Tip prune to keep bushy and maintain shape. Check with native nurseries for availability.


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. 

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.

lenticularis – Latin meaning “lens-shaped” (root of ‘lentils’), often meaning a round object with two convex sides, referring to the round leaves. 

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. 6th Edition. Reed New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia. Pages 285 and 286: Bossiaea and Bossiaea lenticularis profiles.

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

Wikipedia – Bossiaea lenticularis profile page  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bossiaea_lenticularis

By Jeff Howes and Dan Clarke