Pultenaea hispidula

Rusty Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect, spreading shrub, to a height of about 1 metre, often with many drooping and densely hairy branches.

It grows in NSW mainly on the central and south coast subdivisions, south from around Brooklyn, through the Sydney-area, and then scattered through the southern highlands, then growing around Jervis Bay, with disjunctions to Nelligen, Merimbula-Tathra area and further south near the border. It is common in Victoria in disjunct patches across the southern half of the state and also common in the east of South Australia.

It generally grows in heath as well as dry sclerophyll woodland and forests, usually on sandstone.

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, but densely clustered, oblong to obovate, to 10 mm long and 2 mm wide, with lanceolate stipules at the base; the upper surface may be darker than the lower; and with 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 to 8 mm long, yellow-orange overall, arranged in leaf axils, solitarily or in clusters of up to 5, near the ends of short side branches. The standard petal is to 10 mm wide, yellow to pale orange with red markings on the back. The wings are yellow and the keel red or crimson. Flowering occurs from August to December.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, it is ovate, to 5 mm long.

In the garden

Currently, there is not a great deal of information available about the cultivation potential of this species. It may be difficult to establish or keep in cultivation for a good amount of time.

In well drained moist soils, this species flowers profusely and is partial to dappled shade. It also requires good drainage with ample moisture and watering over long dry periods. Tolerates moderate frosts. The foliage colour is a feature if you are partial to greyish coloured leaves as they make a good contrast if planted in groups and light up partially shade positions.

It grows naturally on sandy soils and so may need this in a garden to grow well.

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.


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 in Australia. 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).

hispidula – from the Latin hispidus meaning “rough, hairy, bristly”, referring to the hairs on most plant parts.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea hispidula profile page

Wikipedia – Pultenaea hispidula profile page

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke