Pultenaea paleacea

Chaffy Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A prostrate to erect shrub, with variable heights across its range, from prostrate, to 0.5 metres, to 2 metres tall (in some areas).

It grows along the NSW coast, north from Ulladulla (with old records further south now re-classified as different species), to Port Stephens, then with a disjunction to north of Port Macquarie, then north of Grafton and inland, extending along the Qld coast and inland to west of Gladstone.

It typically grows in dry sclerophyll woodland to forest on sandy to clayey 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, to about 25 mm long and to 6 mm wide, with the tips having sharp points which are often curved down, dark green, with the upper surface darker than the lower surface.

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 about 10 mm long, in dense terminal clusters which are subtended by conspicuous bracts, yellow-to orange in colour with the standard petal to about 10 mm wide with red markings; wings yellow to orange and keel red to purple. It flowers from late September through to November.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, pods are smooth with overlying hairs.

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 on sandy to clay soils mostly. This may mean it is versatile in a range of garden environments.

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.


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 95-100 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).

paleacea – means “chaff-like” or “bearing paleae” which are bracts, referring to the dense bracts surrounding the inflorescences.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea paleacea profile page

Wikipedia – Pultenaea paleacea profile page

Plants of South Eastern New South Wales – Pultenaea paleacea profile page

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke