Hovea pannosa

Rusty Velvet-pods

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A medium shrub to, 3 metres tall, usually with a narrow spread. The stems have brown or rusty to dark grey hairs.

It is found in NSW and Victoria; south from about Newcastle, extending to the Bathurst and Orange-areas, south through the Blue Mountains and Lake Burragorang into the Southern Highlands. There is then a disjunction in occurrence to west of Batemans Bay and Moruya, with a patchy distribution through Bega and Eden. It is found through north-eastern and central Victoria, to around Ballarat.

It is typically found in sclerophyll woodland and forest on a variety of soils including rhyolite outcrops.

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 1.1 cm wide, with the upper surface hairless, smooth or minutely rough.

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 paired in leaf axils, mauve to purple, occasionally white, with the standard petal about 1 cm across, with a cream to yellow spot at the base, occurring from Winter to Spring.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are approximately 10 mm by 10 mm wide and densely hairy.

In the garden

Not a great deal is known about this species in cultivation. It may be more widely cultivated in the future.

Hovea spp. can be short-lived in gardens but worth growing for a few years for the purple pea flowers.

It grows naturally on a range of soils and so may be tolerant of different soil conditions in gardens.

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 was previously and incorrectly named H. purpurea.

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.

pannosa – from the Latin pannus meaning “a piece of cloth”; alluding to the velvet texture of the fruits and possibly other parts.

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

Plants of South-Eastern NSW – Hovea pannosa profile page

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Hovea pannosa profile page

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