Pultenaea mollis

Soft Bush-pea / Guinea Flower Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect or spreading shrub that typically grows to a height of up to 3 metres, with stems covered hairs that are often curled or twisted.

It occurs in NSW, south from around Gosford, through the Sydney area, extending to Katoomba, then occurring in disjunct patches through the southern highlands and Nowra-area, to west of Milton and Nelligen in Morton National Park; then with a large disjunction to Eden and to the west and south thereof.

It grows across most of the south and east of Victoria, as well as northern Tasmania.

It is often found growing in dry sclerophyll woodlands and forests on sandy soil.

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 and crowded along stems; narrow linear to elliptic or needle-shaped, to 20 mm long and to about 1.5 mm wide; mid to light green in colour, with the edges rolled inwards and the lower surface hairy; stipules to 4 mm long.

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 about 10 mm long, arranged in dense heads or up to 10 flowers, at the terminals or sub-terminal; yellow in colour. The standard petal is yellow with red markings; the wings are yellow; and the keel is red; occurring from spring to summer.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, the pod is swollen, to 6 mm long.

In the garden

Currently, not a lot of information is available regarding this species in cultivation. Some information is available that it can be grown successfully, making a prolific floral display. It is recommended to plant under established trees. Tolerates extended dry periods but requires summer watering if grown in full sun.

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

This species was previously referred to as Pultenaea viscosa. P. mollis is likely a valid and earlier name for this taxon.

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).

mollis – Latin meaning “soft” – possibly referring to the overall texture and appearance of the plant.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild in NSW.
It is a listed threatened species in Tasmania, where it is restricted to the northern parts.

NSW Flora Online – Pultenaea mollis profile page

Wikipedia – Pultenaea mollis profile page

Tasmanian Government – Threatened Species Link – Pultenaea mollis profile page

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke