Daviesia alata

Family: Fabaceae Subfamily Faboideae

Generally, a low-lying or prostrate almost herbaceous-shrub to 1 metre tall and spreads to 1 metre wide in a clump-formation, consisting of winged stems with small scale leaves.

It is endemic to NSW, growing with a patchy distribution, mostly on the coast and coastal ranges. It is found in a disjunct patch north and south of Eden and west to near Bombale, then found again further north to the south-west and west of Ulladulla (south of Nerriga). From here, it is found commonly northwards to northern Sydney and out to Blackheath and Mount Wilson. There are scattered records further north in Howes Valley (Putty Road) and Port Stephens with Nelson Bay the most northern record.  

It is found in heath as well as dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, on sandy soils to sandy-clay soils over sandstone as well as near or on lateritic outcrops.

Daviesia spp. have simple leaves modified to phyllodes or rigid scales, arranged alternately. In this species, the phyllodes are reduced to scale leaves on mature winged-stems. On young plants and stems, phyllodes are ovate to linear, to 60 mm long and to 12 mm wide, mid to dark green in colour. The winged stems are also mid to dark green.

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 arranged in condensed racemes of 2 to 5, in leaf axils, on peduncles to 4 mm long; orange-red in colour with yellow hues; the wings and keel are a rich maroon colour; overall flowers are to 7 mm long and about 10 mm wide,  occurring from October to December.

Flowers are followed by distinctive triangular pods in Daviesia spp. In this species, the pod is to 10 mm long and to 7 mm wide, brown in colour when ripe.

In the garden

This is another species where cultivation information is scant. This plant may fall into a similar situation in trying to grow something like the related Bossiaea scolopendria or B. ensata – it has a somewhat-similar nature in terms of winged stems and habit and all of these species grow in similar habitats. It is an interesting enough plant to grow although would likely be overlooked for more attractive and desired species in terms of foliage and flowering. Nevertheless, it would be interesting for all to know if it could be successfully cultivated. Check with native nurseries for availability. It likely needs a sandy to sandy-clay soil with good drainage, in full sun to dappled sunlight.

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

alata from the Latin alatus meaning winged” – referring to the winged stems.

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

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

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 alata profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daviesia_alata

iNaturalistDaviesia alata photo page https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/320839-Daviesia-alata/browse_photos

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.