A shrub to 3 metres tall, spreading to about 1 metre wide. Stems are densely hairy with brown to grey-brown or sometimes partly black hairs.
It is found almost only in the central coast area of NSW, growing between Lithgow, Wisemans Ferry, Brooklyn, The Blue Mountains, to the Southern Highlands and as far south as west of Tomerong in Morton National Park. There are some disjunct records east of Kandos in Wollemi National Park.
It grows in Hawkesbury sandstone and other sandstone country, usually in dry sclerophyll woodland or forest.
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 6 cm long and to 0.7 cm wide, alternate or in whorls of 3, narrow-oblong to strap-shaped, with the upper surface dull green, dull, and with the lower surface densely covered in golden-brown to cream 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 in the leaf axils in pairs or 3s, mauve with the standard petal to 10 mm wide with yellow markings, occurring in August to September.
The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are approximately 15 mm by 11 mm wide, and covered in a dense golden layer of hairs. Seeds about 5 mm long.
This species is not overly common in cultivation. It may be more commonly cultivated in the future.
Check with local native nurseries for availability. It grows naturally on sandstone soils and so will likely need similar conditions in a garden to thrive.
It likely would be useful for attracting 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.
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.
speciosa – Latin meaning “beautiful” or “notable” – referring to this plant being an attractive and showy specimen when in flower.
This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
Plants of South Eastern New South Wales – Hovea speciosa profile page
NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Hovea speciosa profile page