Hovea lanceolata

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

Hovea lanceolata develops into an upright, small to medium shrub, to 3 metres tall, spreading to 1 metre or so wide.

It is found in the central and northern tablelands and slopes of NSW, with some records on the north coast. It extends into Queensland, through the Warwick and Toowoomba areas, with some records north-west of Taroom and then some very disjunct records west and north of Cairns.

It typically grows in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, typically in shallow soils on rocky substrates such as granite and metamorphic rocks.

Hovea is a member of the “pea” family. This generally means that leaves are alternate with stipules at the base of the petioles. Hovea have simple and alternate leaves, with stipules present or absent, sometimes caducous which means forming and then falling off quickly. In this species, leaves are up 9 cm long and up to 1.5 cm wide, oblong to elliptical, deep green above and greyish-brown with rusty hairs beneath and with a very small mucro at the apex.

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 this species, the flowers are bluish purple and borne in axillary racemes of up to 4 flowers with each flower up to 15 mm wide across the standard. During late winter to early spring, the flowers are both conspicuous and profuse.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are approximately 15 mm by 15 mm wide. They are swollen and hold a number of hard-coated seeds.

In the garden

Like many of the Fabaceae family, Hovea lanceolata is not well known in cultivation but has great horticultural potential.

It can be grown if plants can be sourced. It may be short lived in many gardens but may grow for a few years. It does best on a slope with fast draining soil, in full sun to part shade. If they can be grown near rocks, this also assists with drainage.

Plants can be pruned after flowering or fruiting, lightly, to create a denser shrub and more flowers for the following year.

This is a shrub that deserves to be grown more often.


Propagation is from seed that needs to be soaked in hot water, to soften the hard seed coat, before sowing. Propagation may also be possible from cuttings.

Other information

The pods, when they ripen, split and shoot seeds out for some distance. We once had pods in a room and on ripening they shot out seeds in all directions. This is a very efficient means of seed dispersal especially when pods ripen outside.

Hovea is an endemic Australlian genus of about 38 species; some of which are variable and can be hard to tell apart. They occur in all states. NSW currently has 20 species.

Hovea spp. will often die in a fire and regenerate from any seedbank.

Hovea – in honour of Anton Pantaleon Hove (d. 1798), a Polish botanist employed by both William Aiton and Joseph Banks to collect plant material in India, West Africa and Crimea, amongst other places.

lanceolata – Latin meaning “lanceolate” – referring to the lance-shaped leaves.

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

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

Plants of South Eastern New South Wales – Hovea lanceolata profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/plants_se_nsw/text/entities/hovea_lanceolata.htm

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.