Bossiaea rhombifolia

Family: subfamily Faboideae

Family: Fabaceae

An erect, shrub with mostly glabrous stems, growing to a height of up to 2 metres, with a spread to around 1 metre. 

It is found on all the coastal botanical subdivisions of NSW, extending into the central and northern tablelands as well as the central and north-western slopes. It is found as far south as Wadbilliga National Park (south-east of Cooma), northwards in a patchy distribution but commonly found north of Wollongong. It just extends into Queensland, around the Stanthorpe-area.

It is usually found in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, often on very sandy soils but sometimes on heavier soils and rocky sites. 

Bossiaea spp. have two ‘versions’ of foliage. Some species have simple leaves (sometimes described as uni-foliolate) arranged either alternate or oppositely. Other species have leaves reduced with flattened or winged stems modified to cladodes, with mostly only juvenile growth having very small leaves. As this is a member of the ‘pea’ family, stipules are present though usually small. In this species, true leaves are present; appearing simple and alternate, diamond/rhomboid-shaped, round or broadly ovate, to 12 mm long and wide on a petiole to 1 mm long, blue-green in colour; the foliage has an overall regularly-structured appearance.

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”, the 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, the flowers are to 12 mm long on pedicels up to 5 mm long, and produced singularly in the leaf axils; the standard and wings are bright yellow-orange with red basal markings, the keel is a dark purple-red; occurring from July to October.

All peas have a pod. In this species, it is oblong in shape, to 25 mm long.

In the garden

Bossiaea species are a particularly 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.  

Bossiaea rhombifolia is a very attractive species in both flower and foliage and would enhance any native garden. The foliage has a nice architectural structure.

If plants or seeds can be sourced, it is a reasonably hardy species for sunny or semi-shaded sites in well-drained soils. Often self-seeds in optimum conditions.


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.

rhombifolia – from the Latin rhombus, a four sided geometric figure and –folius, ‘a leaf’, referring to the shape of the 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 rhombifolia profiles.

Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Bossiaea rhombifolia profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/bossiaea-rhombifolia/

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

Wikipedia – Bossiaea rhombifolia profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bossiaea_rhombifolia

By Jeff Howes and Dan Clarke