Daviesia leptophylla

Narrow-leaf Bitter-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A flexible, erect and “light” shrub, often multi-stemmed shrub, growing to a height of about 2 metres with a 1 metre spread. It has an overall “broom-like” habit.

In NSW, it is found mainly on the central and southern tablelands and western slopes; as far north mostly as Mudgee and Wellington. However, a few records have been found with disjunction close to Nundle. It extends commonly towards the Victorian border and out to Griffith. It then occurs commonly (with a little disjunction) through Victoria, across much of the State (east of Corryong and Orbost). It is absent from the north-west of the State. It is found commonly around Adelaide in South Australia, as well as around Port Augusta and Kangaroo Island; extending northwards past Hawker.

It is typically found in dry sclerophyll woodland and shrubland, often on higher ground on sandy and rocky (skeletal) soils. (This Editor has once observed huge amount of plants, post-fire, in scribbly-gum ridgetop woodland on the central tablelands).

Daviesia spp. have simple leaves modified to phyllodes or rigid scales in this species, arranged alternately. In this species, they are often widely scattered along the branchlets, linear, yellowish-mid-green to dark green, up to 70 mm long and to 5 mm wide with conspicuous venation.

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, one or two umbel-like racemes of up to 10 flowers are produced in leaf axils, on peduncles to 5 mm long; flowers bright yellow with dark maroon markings; occurring from August to December.

Flowers are followed by distinctive triangular pods in Daviesia spp. In this species.the fruit is flattened, to 10 mm long and to 6 mm wide, brown when ripe.

In the garden

Not a lot is known about the cultivation of this species. It is a nice plant in its own right and would make nice addition to any garden. Flowers are very showy, though the general shrub is a bit sparse in foliage and spread.

It grows naturally on shallow sandy to rocky-based skeletal soils and so may need similar conditions to thrive with good drainage. Plant in full sun to part shade.

Check with native nurseries for availability. Seed is sold online.

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

leptophylla from Greek – leptos (λεπτός) meaning “thin”, “fine” or “slender” and –phylla (φύλλα) – meaning “leaves” – referring to the thin leaves of this species.

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

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

Wikipedia Daviesia leptophylla profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daviesia_leptophylla

Yarra Ranges Council – Local Plant Directory Daviesia leptophylla profile page https://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/PlantDirectory/Shrubs/Shrubs-to-2m/Daviesia-leptophylla

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.

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.