Pultenaea flexilis

Graceful Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect shrub, to 4 metres high, sometimes with sparsely hairy stems.

It grows in two somewhat disjunct areas in NSW, as far south as Deua National park, west of Moruya, extending north along the coast where it is found commonly north of Durras North, with scattered records from west of Milton to the Kangaroo River. It then appears again at Hill Top and extending north through the Greater Sydney Basin and Hunter Valley areas. It is then found disjunctly in high concentrations north and west of Coffs Harbour, extending into Queensland along the coast and tablelands to around Kingaroy and Kenilworth.

It is typically found on well drained sandy soils, in dry sclerophyll woodlands and forests.

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, linear to narrow-obovate, to 20 mm long and 4 mm wide; with a pointy apex, mid- to blue-green.

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 to 10 mm long, yellow, and arranged in clusters near the ends of branchlets. The standard is about 1 cm across with red markings; the wings and the keel are typically yellow.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are to 9 mm long and swollen.

In the garden

This species is known to be cultivated; much more so than others in the genus. Not much information is available regarding its hardiness but it creates a nice background shrub and point of interest in any garden. It stands out for its size and bright flowers. It grows on sandy soils mostly and so may need similar conditions to thrive. It is known to be sold in nurseries and seed is also available online. It would make a very nice garden addition.

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 compactness.


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 known to intergrade with P. stipularis with such plants assumed to be hybrids.

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).

flexilis – Latin meaning “flexible”, referring to the leaves or branches perhaps.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea flexilis profile page

Wikipedia – Pultenaea flexilis 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