Kennedia rubicunda

Dusky Coral Pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

Kennedia rubicunda is a vigorous climber or creeper, which can form mats / colonies to many metres wide with rusty-hairy stems to over 5 metres long; often climbing.

It has a mostly coastal distribution in NSW, just extending into the coast-tableland divide, and found along the entire coastal region. It spread up the Queensland coast to around Cairns and into the eastern half of Victoria. It is apparently a weed in Tasmania. 

It is found in a variety of habitats including dry sclerophyll woodland and forests as well as heathlands and shrublands and regenerating disturbed areas. Can be found on a range of soils from sandstone and sand to clay-based.

Kennedia is a member of the “pea” family. This generally means that leaves are alternate with stipules at the base of the petioles. Kennedia spp. generally have compound-trifoliolate and alternate leaves, with stipules present. In this species, leaves are glossy green with each leaflets up to 16 cm long by 6 cm wide with a rounded or pointed apex and with an overall ovate to broadly-elliptic shape.

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, the flowers are comparitively large for a pea, up to four centimetres long by two centimetres wide, deep red, sometimes with a darker red-purple areas on the standard and keel, and held in axillary clusters of up to 12. Flowers have an overall flaccid to wilted appearance, occurring in spring and summer when the blooms are usually profuse and conspicuous. 

The fruits of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are linear to oblong, to 10 cm long, densely hairy on the outside, with about 14 seeds.

In the garden

A very hardy plant in the right situation. It is really only suited to coastal environments. It does not tolerate frost overly well. 

It grows robustly in the right conditions and could be used as a vine for a trellis. If it has nothing to climb, it can form dense groundlayer patches whilst it searches for a climbing opportunity. The flowers are not overly showy but are interesting due to their size. 

Will tolerate a variety of soils provided the drianage is adequate. Periodic pruning may be needed to keep plants in check and trained. 


Propagate from seed that needs soaking in hot water before sowing. Cuttings can also be trialled. 

Other information

Kennedia rubicunda was introduced into cultivation in England in 1788.

Kennedia is a genus of about 16 species, all endemic to Australia. NSW currently has 4 species.

This species regenerates readily after fire, typically conspicuous in the months after a fire, in any groundlayer where it has a seed bank. 

Kennedia – named after John Kennedy (1759-1842), an English nurseryman who operated the Lee and Kennedy nursery in London in the early 19th Century, which was the main source of Australian native plants in England. 

rubicunda – Latin meaning “red” – referring to the colours of the flowers. 

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

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

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Kennedia rubicunda profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/kennedia-rubicunda/

By Warren and Gloria Sheather. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.