Daviesia acicularis

Sharp Bitter-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A small and wiry shrub, typically to 1 metre high with an erect narrow habit.

It has a large natural geographic distribution; in NSW – growing from the south coast, south of Eden in Ben Boyd / Beowa National Park, northwards in a patchy distribution and moving into the very east of the southern tablelands, as well as Wollongong and Sydney. It then stretches west as far as near Grenfell on the central western slopes and the distribution spreads north-north-west from here through the western slopes, tablelands and coast (out to Dubbo / Pilliga Scrub) to the Queensland border. In the very north of the State, plants are found as far west as near Enngonia. It extends into Queensland, from here to the coast, as far north as the latitude of (and near) Springsure, extending to Fraser Island.

It is typically found in dry sclerophyll forest, woodland and shrubland on sandy soils, usually over sandstone, or on sandy plains.

Daviesia spp. have simple leaves modified to phyllodes or rigid scales, arranged alternately. In this species, the phyllodes are subulate to linear or narrow-elliptic, to narrow elliptic, to about 50 mm long and 4 mm wide, with an aristate apex and sharp points / mucros; with the edges curved downwards or rolled under and a prominent mid-vein on the upper surface; mid green in colour and with scattered small teeth on the margins.

Daviesia spp. have pea-flowers (papilionate) which are 5-merous but with the typical pea setup where there is one large rear petal called the “standard”, two fused bottom petals called the “keel” and two lateral petals called “wings”. In this species, the flowers are to 7 mm long and arranged singly in leaf axils, on a peduncle to 2 mm long; yellow to orange with dark red markings and with a dark red keel; occurring from August (in the north of the range) to October (in the southof the range).

Flowers are followed by distinctive triangular pods in Daviesia spp. In this species,the pods are to 9 mm long by 7 mm wide.

In the garden

Again, this is another Daviesia species where there is very scant detail about its cultivation potential. It may be difficult to cultivate or source. Check with native nurseries for availability. It makes a nice-enough small shrub (if prickly) and has showy flowers. It likely needs a sandy soil with fast drainage to thrive. Best planted in a sunny location. Would be useful for attracting bees.

Daviesia spp. are sometimes grown by enthusiasts but the genus is not in widespread cultivation. This is a pity as there are a number of species that would make excellent subjects for cultivation as they are reasonable hardy species andrequire good drainage and full to half sun to grow at their best.

The seeds are often attacked by caterpillars making collection difficult.


Propagation is easy from seed following pre-treatment to break the physical dormancy provided by the impervious seed coat. Pre-treatment can be carried out by abrasion or by the use of boiling water. The seed retains viability for many years. Cuttings may be successful, but are often slow to strike and may not produce a vigorous root system.

Other information

Daviesia spp. regenerate after fire from seed. Some species can regenerate in large numbers after fire. This species may be able to sucker as well.

Daviesia is a genus of about 120 species, endemic to Australia, occurring in all Australian states and territories. NSW currently has 20 species. Like other genera in their family, Daviesia species have nitrogen-fixing bacteria contained in root nodules. The leaves have a bitter taste (hence the common name).

Daviesia – named for Rev. Hugh Davies (1739 – 1821); a Welsh botanist who was one of the first to describe plants in the Welsh language. The genus was named after him by James Edward Smith was an English botanist and founder of the Linnean Society

acicularis from Latin meaning shaped like a needle” (acicular) – referring to the “needle-like” leaves.

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

Australian Native Plants Cultivation, Use in Landscaping and Propagation. Sixth edition. John W Wrigley and Murray Fagg. Reed New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia. 2013, page 319 for genus Daviesia.

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

Australian Native Plants Cultivation, Use in Landscaping and Propagation. Sixth edition. John W Wrigley and Murray Fagg. Reed New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia. 2013, page 319 for genus Daviesia.

Wikipedia Daviesia acicularis profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daviesia_acicularis

NatureMaprDaviesia acicularis profile page https://canberra.naturemapr.org/species/3976

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.