Pultenaea ferruginea

Large Bronze Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect, bushy multi-stemmed shrub with densely hairy stems, to a height of up to 2 metres by 1 metre wide.

It is confined to NSW, growing mainly in the Sydney to Newcastle region, mainly from between Sydney-city and Penrith, northwards, to north of Putty and Kulnura, with a few records west of Lake Burragorang, as well as in Royal NP; and west of Gerringong and Nowra. Then, there is a large disjunction to records west of Moruya and Tuross Head.

It grows mainly in heath and dry sclerophyll woodland-forest, usually on sandstone but also on acid-volcanic 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, the leaves are alternate, but crowded; obovate, to 15 mm long and to 7 mm wide, with the edges turned inwards; mid-green to darker green in colour and with appressed short 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). 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, flowers are arranged near, or at, the ends of branchlets, to 15 mm long, yellow to reddish-orange with the standard to 2 cm wide, sometimes with faint red markings; the keel and wings generally yellow; surrounded by green leafy and hairy bracts.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, the pod is about 6 mm long with a tuft of hairs at the tips.

In the garden

Not a lot of knowledge is currently available regarding this species in cultivation. It is known to be cultivated to some extent. It grows on sandy soils mostly and so may need similar conditions to thrive. It is known to be sold in nurseries at times.

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 compactness.


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

This species is similar to P. tuberculata. The colour of the leaves differs slightly and are slightly wider in P. ferruginea; and the stipules surrounding the flowers are smaller compared to the bracteoles in P. ferruginea (in P. tuberculata, stipules and bracteoles are of similar length and fused for most of their length).

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).

ferruginea – Latin meaning “rust-coloured”, possibly referring to the colour of the new growth and the stipules.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea ferruginea profile page

Wikipedia – Pultenaea ferruginea profile page

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

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke