Pultenaea scabra

Rough Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect or spreading shrub to a height of 2 metres with a narrow spread, with densely hairy stems.

It grows in NSW, south from the area to the east of Mudgee and Gulgong, and east from around Parkes, through the Blue Mountains, Sydney and Lake Burragorang, as well as the southern highlands; with a disjunction to the Braidwood area and extending south to Narooma; then another disjunction to Eden, continuing to the Victorian border.

The range continues through Victoria and into the east of South Australia. There are some very disjunct records in SE Queensland (this may be a different species).

It grows in heath and dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, usually on sandy 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, cuneate to obcordate (heart-shaped), with the narrower end towards the base, to 16 mm long and to 13 mm wide, mid green in colour, with the tip having a squared-off edge and conspicuous mucro; with triangular to lanceolate stipules, to 4 mm long at the base.

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 arranged in usually clusters of 3 or more flowers, at the branch terminals; yellow to orange in colour; the standard petal is to 12 mm across, with a red base; the wings are yellow and red and shorter than the standard, and the keel is dark red to crimson; occurring from September to November.

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

In the garden

This species has a history of being cultivated and is reported to be frost tolerant. It grows well in a sunny spot with good drainage. It grows naturally on sandy soils, so this is suggested for best results.

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).

scabra – Latin meaning “scabrous” / “rough” – referring to the rough texture of the upper surface of the leaves, due to tubercules.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea scabra profile page

Wikipedia – Pultenaea scabra 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.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke