Pultenaea canescens

Plumed Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect or sprawling shrub to a height of up to 1.5 metres, with hairless or hairy stems.

It is found only in NSW, mainly in the Blue Mountains (west of Sydney), growing from Blaxland to Lithgow-area (and a small way further north); also spreading east of here to Kurrajong. There are also a few records west of Lake Burragorang, as well as in the Goulburn and Canberra regions.

It is typically found in swampy heathland on sandstone substrates.

Pultenaea is a member of the “pea” family. This generally means that leaves are alternate with stipules (leaf-like appendages) at the base of the petioles. Pultenaea spp. however, can sometimes have opposite leaves or leaves in whorls of 3. One of the key features of Pultenaea is that the stipules are fused behind the axillary bud.

In this species, leaves are alternate (although densely clustered on the stems), narrow-elliptic to narrow-obovate and concave; to 12 mm long and to 2.5 mm wide.

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).

Pultenaea spp. sometimes have bracts surrounding the inflorescences, and bracteoles attached to the calyx tube or just below on the pedicels (at different locations in different species). These bracteoles can also have accompanying stipules.

In this species, the flowers are to 15 mm long and borne in dense leafy-clusters or heads, at the terminals, yellow to orange overall. The standard petal is about 1 cm across, sometimes with reddish-brown stripes, and the wings and keel are also yellow to orange.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are ovate, approximately 6 mm long.

In the garden

Not a lot of knowledge is currently available regarding this species in cultivation. It may be more commonly cultivated in the future. It grows in wet sandstone heath and so establishing it, in a garden, may be difficult.

Many members of this genus can be a little difficult to establish in a garden situation. They prefer soil with moderate drainage and a semi-shaded site. Prune after flowering to maintain a dense bush with more flowers the following season.


Propagation is carried out by either cuttings or seed and results are reasonably good from both methods.

Cuttings should be from newer wood with the soft tips removed.

A lot of seed is destroyed by insects, resulting in a low number of viable seeds.

Before seeds are sown they must be treated by chipping, scarifying or hot water, which are all satisfactory methods to aid germination.

Other information

Hybrids between Pultenaea canescens and Pultenaea foliolosa have occasionally been found.

Pultenaea canescens is listed in the ‘Provisional list of plants requiring urgent management intervention’ (released on 23 April 2020 by the Wildlife and Threatened Species Bushfire Recovery Expert Panel, Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment).

There are approximately 120 species of Pultenaea, making it the largest pea-genus in Australia. They are endemic to Australia and occurring in all States except the Northern Territory. NSW, currently has about 95-100 taxa with a large set informally recognised. This genus contains some species complexes and is under taxonomic revision.

Pultenaea spp. will generally regenerate from seed after fire.

Pultenaea – is named in honour of Dr Richard Pulteney (1730–1801) – an English botanist who published a biography of Carl von Linne (Linnaeus).

canescens – Latin meaning “greying” or “to become grey or white”, likely referring to the hairy stipules surrounding the flowers.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. (However, the bushfires of 2019-2020 in NSW, may change this status).

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea canescens profile page

Plant of South Eastern New South Wales – Pultenaea canescens profile page

Jungle Dragon – Pultenaea canescens profile page

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke