Pultenaea retusa

Notched Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect shrub, potentially to 2 metres tall with a narrow spread; with young stems hairy.

It has a mostly coastal distribution in NSW, with some disjunctions: growing from south of Lismore to Nambucca Heads; then from south of Wauchope towards Taree; then from Forster through Newcastle and Sydney, as far west as Wollemi National Park, Katoomba and Mount Wilson, to the southern highlands and Dapto-area; then appearing again mostly between Nelligen and Tuross Head-area. It extends into Queensland, with scattered records along the coast and coastal inland, to west of Townsville. It grows in Victoria, mainly from the eastern corner to the central south of the state.

It grows in dry to wet sclerophyll forest as well as swampy sites, on a variety of soils, sandy to clay.

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, cuneate to obovate, with the narrower end towards the base, to 15 mm long, and to 5 mm wide, often with a notch at the tip, mid green to dark green in colour, with stipules about 1 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 7 mm long, arranged in dense clusters at the branch terminals, yellow-orange in colour, with the standard petal yellow to orange with red markings, and to 6 mm wide; the wings are yellow to orange and the keel red to purple; occurring from September to November.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, it is flattened, to 7 mm long.

In the garden

This species is sold commercially and so appears to be cultivated. It may not be overly common in cultivation but may be able to be purchased and trialled.

It grows naturally on a range of soils and so may be adaptable to many gardens.

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.

Seed for this species is available commercially.

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).

retusa – Latin meaning “blunt” – referring to the leaves having a notched tip.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea retusa profile page

Australian Plants Online – Pultenaea retusa sales page.

Wikipedia – Pultenaea retusa profile page.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke