Dillwynia elegans

Parrot-pea, Eggs and Bacon

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect and bushy shrub growing to a height of 3 metres with hairy young stems which become glabrous as they age.

It is naturally confined to the Greater Sydney area, extending to Wollemi National Park/Budden-area, then south-east into Sydney (east of Lithgow), with records at Gosford and in the Blue Mountains, then extending south to about Hill Top in the southern highlands.

It grows usually on or close to sandstone ridges, in heath and open dry sclerophyll woodland and forest.

Dillwynia is a member of the “pea” family. This generally means that leaves are alternate with stipules at the base of the petioles. Dillwynia have simple and alternate leaves, with stipules present and minute, or absent.

Leaves can be flat, terete or triangular in cross-section and often twisted.

In this species, leaves are crowded, linear and more or less cylindrical with a longitudinal groove and with a slight twist. They are to 22 mm long, mid to dark green in colour, hairy to glabrous.

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 Dillwynia, flowers are yellow, or red and yellow (or orange/yellow) and are usually arranged singly or in small groups in leaf axils or on the ends of branchlets. The upper two of five sepal lobes are joined in a single “lip”. The standard petal is typically wider than high (a useful identification feature), and the keel is the same length as the wings. There are very small leafy bracts present on the common peduncle (which can fall early or be persistent) and bracteoles on flower pedicels (below the calyx).

In this species, the flowers are arranged in pairs in leaf axils, forming clusters near the ends of branches. The flowers are on peduncles with egg-shaped to lance-shaped bracts 1 to 2 mm long and shorter bracteoles, yellow overall, with the standard and keel having red markings; with the standard to about 7 mm long.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are to 7 mm long and the seeds are smooth.

In the garden

There is not a lot of available information regarding the cultivation of this species. It may be more widely cultivated in the future. The original published description was made based on a cultivated plant in Europe. It grows naturally on shallow sandstone soils or rocky areas and so may need similar conditions to thrive in a garden.

Dillwynias are not overly common in cultivation. However, they make very attractive garden subjects with masses of flowers. They are generally suited to well drained soils in a sunny or semi-shaded position and most will tolerate heavy pruning.

Scale insects may be found on the leaves and branches and may be treated with an application of white oil.


Propagation from seed is relatively easy following pre-treatment to break the physical dormancy provided by the impervious seed coat. Pre-treatment can be carried out by abrasion or soak in near-boiling water for about 30 seconds, before cooling rapidly under flowing cold water. Alternatively soak in cold water for several hours. Dry to prevent rotting before sowing. Germination occurs in 3 – 4 weeks.

Cuttings strike reasonably well using firm, current season’s growth.

Other information

This species was previously known as Dillwynia floribunda var. teretifolia.

Dillwynia is a genus of about 40 species of flowering plants endemic to Australia and occurring in all Australian states and the Australian Capital Territory (except the Northern Territory). They are generally small to medium-sized shrubs. They are often known by the name of ‘Eggs and Bacon’ or ‘Parrot-peas’ because of their bright yellow and reddish tints of the flowers. NSW currently has about 22 taxa.

Dillwynias are often colonising species germinating quickly after fires to stabilise the soil and provide nitrogen. All are legumes able to ‘fix’ nitrogen from the atmosphere in nodules on their roots.

The following link is a list of Dillwynia species accepted by the Australian Plant Census and Plants of the World Online as at May 2021: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dillwynia

Dillwynia spp. will mostly regenerate from seed after fire.

Dillwynia – honours Lewis Weston Dillwyn (1778-1855) who was a British porcelain manufacturer, naturalist and Whig Member of Parliament (MP). He was also renowned for his published works on botany and conchology.

elegans – Latin meaning “graceful” or “elegant”.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Dillwynia elegans profile page

Wikipedia – Dillwynia elegans profile page

Denise Greig (1996). Flowering Natives for Home Gardens. Angus & Robertson

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke