Hovea linearis

Common Hovea

Family: Fabaceae subfam. Faboideae

An erect open shrub to about 1 metre tall with hairy stems and branches.

It occurs predominantly in NSW on the coast, between Newcastle and Nowra but extends to the tablelands and western slopes; also in south-eastern Queensland.

It grows mainly on sandstone and sandy soils in dry sclerophyll forests and woodlands.

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 or sometimes caducous which means forming and then falling off quickly.

In this species, leaves are erect, mostly linear to narrow-linear, to 110 mm long and 6 mm wide. The upper leaf surface is strongly veined with hairs on the underside.

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, flowers are produced in leaf axils in pairs, about 10 mm wide across the standard, in July to September, blue-purple in colour.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are about 10 mm long by 10 mm wide with seeds about 4 mm long.

In the garden

Attractive in flower with its bright purple showy flowers, and hardy if it is given excellent drainage, some overhead shade and a cool root run. This author has found they do not perform well in prolonged dry conditions.

It is not commonly grown but should be trialled more often. It would add to insect-attracting in any garden.

Can become weedy if planted adjacent to bushland as it seeds prolifically.


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

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.

linearis – Latin meaning “linear” – referring to the narrow linear leaves.

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

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

Wikipedia – Hovea linearis profile page                                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hovea_linearis

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.