Hovea longifolia

Long-leaved Hovea, Rusty pods

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A medium shrub to 3 metres tall, usually with a narrow spread. The stems have dense brown to grey, sometimes partly black, hairs.

It has a wide, mostly coastal range in NSW, growing in disjunct patches along shaded slopes above creeks and creekbanks, chiefly north from Narooma, with some records on the NSW-Vic border and extending east to Melbourne. It grows commonly around Sydney to Newcastle and then disjunctly to west of Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour and south-east of Grafton as well as the NSW-Qld border. It has a scattered occurrence through the coastal hinterland of Queensland to as far as Cape York.

It typically grows in riparian areas (creeklines and banks) in moist-dry and wet sclerophyll forest, usually on sandy soils or enriched sandy loams.

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 to 9 cm long and to just short of 1 cm wide, linear, flat to slightly arched with a sunken midrib; with a short mucro and with the margins turned downwards as well as inwards (recurved / revolute); the upper surface is hairless and glossy and the lower surface has a dense golden-brown indumentum.

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 in leaf axils, either solitary or in groups of 3, blue-mauve in colour, with the standard petal about 1 cm across and with a yellow to cream spot, occurring from winter to spring.

The fruit of all peas is a pod, In this species, they are approximately 15 mm long with seeds about 3 mm long.

In the garden

This species is cultivated and is reported (see references) as being one of the hardiest members of the genus in cultivation. Plants can be purchased online as well as seeds.

Grow in a well-drained soil in part-shade. A garden slope works really well.

It may be short lived but worth trying if a mature plant can be achieved.

The plant attracts birds, wasps, bees, butterflies and a wide variety of insects and spiders.


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

The seed retains viability for many years. Cuttings of hardened, current season’s growth strike readily.

Other information

This species name used to be applied to many other species, those of which have now been recognised as separate to H. longifolia.

Hovea is an endemic Australian 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.

longifolia – Latin – longi meaning “long” and –folius – meaning “leaves” – referring to the comparatively long leaves of the species.

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

Plants of South Eastern New South Wales – Hovea longifolia profile page

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Hovea longifolia profile page

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 Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.