Dillwynia juniperina

Prickly parrot-pea, Juniper Pea-Bush

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect, spreading, prickly shrub to a height of 2 metres, with hairy stems (short and tight hairs).

It has a scattered distribution, mainly on the tablelands areas of NSW with some disjunctions; from Armidale north to the Queensland border with some records in southern-inland Queensland; the occurring from Dubbo and Orange, through to north-west Sydney in small disjunct patches. It is common in the Trunkey area south of Bathurst, then with records in the Southern Highlands, through to Nowra, as well as the ACT. Another disjunct patch is between Wagga Wagga and Albury. It also grows in north-central and eastern Victoria.

Usually found in dry sclerophyll woodlands, usually on skeletal sandy to deeper soils.

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 on stems, rigid, linear, triangular in cross-section, to about 20 mm long and only 1 mm wide, sessile with a sharply-pointed tip, prickly overall. Leaves can also point downwards on some branches.

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, flowers are arranged in terminal racemes up to 50 mm long, of up to 20 flowers, yellow in colour with the standard to 9 mm long, with red markings on both the standard and keel. Flowering occurs from August to November.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are approximately 5 mm long.

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. It grows in very well drained soil in lightly filtered sun. Prune after flowering to maintain shrubby growth. Nice prickly foliage for small birds.

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

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) was a British porcelain manufacturer, naturalist and Whig Member of Parliament (MP). He was also renowned for his published works on botany and conchology.

juniperina – means “juniper-like”, after a prickly European conifer (Juniperinus genus).

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Dillwynia juniperina profile page

Wikipedia – Dillwynia juniperina profile page

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

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke