Pultenaea polifolia

Dusky Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A shrub to 1.5 metres tall (usually smaller and can also grow prostrate), that has hairy stems.

It has a large occurrence in NSW, growing from the Northern Tablelands, between Dorrigo and Armidale (with a few records further north), then with some records near Taree and further west, then commonly in the Sydney to Orange latitude, spreading south to around Durras on the coast, but through the ACT to Albury.
It is common in north-eastern Victoria.

It generally grows in heath as well as wet sclerophyll forests, in swampy to drier sites.

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 and variable, linear or elliptic to obovate, with the narrower end towards the base, to 35 mm long, and to 6 mm wide, with the upper surface mostly glabrous and the lower surface hairy; with stipules to 5 mm long at the base and pressed against the stem.

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, arranged in terminal clusters, with overlapping, three-lobed bracts to 8 mm long at the base. Flowers are yellow-orange, with the standard petal yellow to red, to 7 mm wide; the wings are yellow to orange and the keel is red to purple; occurring from October to November.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, it is flattened, to 10 mm long.

In the garden

Not a great deal of information is currently available, but it is known to be grown and can live a long time if established successfully. It is not commonly grown but may be more so in the future. It is recommended for a rockery or as a hang-over on a wall.

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 95-100 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).

polifolia – Latin – reportedly referring to the foliage of the Greek polion (πόλιον), which is reportedly the name for Germander plants (Teucrium polium). This word also refers to “grey” or “pale”.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea polifolia 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.

Australian Plants Society – North Shore Group – Newsletter 21. The Pea Flowers

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke