Hovea purpurea

Velvet Hovea, Tall Hovea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A shrub to 3 metres tall, with a spread of around 1 metre. Most parts are covered in light to dark grey hairs.

It has a mostly tablelands-occurrence in NSW, growing on the southern, central and northern tablelands and north-western slopes, with some records in coastal areas (Grafton and Sydney) and growing commonly on the south coast inland areas. It grows just into far-north-eastern Victoria, as also just into Queensland, found at Stanthorpe. There is a large disjunction in South Australia, where it grows, from south-east to north-east of Port Augusta.

It is found in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, often on rocky ridges and slopes, as well as scrublands along creeklines.

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 7 cm long and to about 1.7 cm wide, narrow-elliptic to narrow-oblong, partly glossy-green above, with a short mucro and with the lower surface covered in creamy to brown hairs.

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 mostly in pairs, in leaf axils, mauve to purple (sometimes white), with the standard petal about 15 mm across and bearing a yellow spot, occurring in Spring and Summer.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are approximately to 17 mm by about 10 mm wide and bearing a gold layer of hairs. The olive to black-brown seeds are to 7 mm long.

In the garden

This species is not overly common in cultivation. It may be more readily propagated into the future.

Many Hovea spp. can be short-lived in cultivation and some difficult to grow.

This plant is very attractive and would make a nice addition to any native garden. Check with local native nurseries for availability. It grows naturally in rocky areas and near creeklines. It would likely need a fast-draining soil to do well. Plant in part shade. Prune after flowering or fruiting to encourage a denser shrub and more flowers the following season.

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

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.

purpurea – Latin – meaning “purple” – referring to the purple-tone of the flowers.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Hovea purpurea profile page

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

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke