Pultenaea capitellata

Hard-head Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A sprawling to prostrate shrub, with hairy stems up to 50 cm long.

It is found in NSW on the central and southern tablelands, as well as south coast; growing mainly from Lithgow-region, in disjunct patches south to Braidwood, then through to Bombala on the tablelands/coastal divide. There are also records in the ACT and further west towards Batlow. There are a few very disjunct records south of Eden, as well as north-east of Tenterfield. It extends into the north-eastern parts of Victoria.

It is typically found in swampy heath to dry sclerophyll woodlands and forests, on acidic soils.

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, the leaves are alternate, elliptic to broadly egg-shaped to 12 mm long and to 5 mm wide, with a central groove and sometimes with a pointy tip; stipules 1 to 3 mm long at the base.

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, yellow to orange flowers are borne in dense clusters or heads, at the terminals of the branchlets with hairy, overlapping, three-lobed bracts at their bases. The standard petal is about 1 cm across long, often with reddish markings; the wings are yellow to orange and the keel is red to purple; occurring from November to January.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are to 6 mm long, usually ovate in shape.

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 a variety of wet and dry habitats and so establishing it in a garden might be possible.

Many members of this genus can be a little difficult to establish in a garden situation. They prefer soil with moderate drainage and 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

There are approximately 120 species of Pultenaea, making it the largest pea-genus. They are endemic to Australia and occurring in all States except the Northern Territory. NSW currently has about 95 taxa with some informally recognises and some that are species-complex.

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).

capitellata – Latin – meaning “a small head” – referring to the small heads of flowers produced, on a small plant.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea capitellata profile page

VicFlora – Flora of Victoria Online – Pultenaea capitellata profile page

Wikipedia – Pultenaea capitellata profile page

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke