Pultenaea spinosa

Spiny Bush-pea, Grey Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A shrub (sometimes prostrate) but often to 3 metres tall by 2 metres or more wide.

It has a widespread natural occurrence in NSW, growing on the western slopes, most of the tablelands and also common in coastal subdivisions.

It is found from the northern central areas of Victoria, stretching through NSW from Albury, through the ACT as well as north of Batemans Bay. It occurs commonly through Bathurst-Orange and east of Dubbo, extending northward through Tamworth-Armidale with disjunctions up to the border. It is also found heavily in the Hunter Valley and from Coffs Harbour to Lismore. It extends into Qld, as far as Cairns, mainly on the coast and tablelands.

It is typically found in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, on sandy to clay soils, or rocky 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, leaves are alternate or in whorls of three (rarely opposite each other) with a distinctive ovate to broad-rhombic shape and with a long fine tapering point (almost like ‘spades’ in a deck of cards); to 20 mm long to 25 mm wide, blue-green or glaucous in colour. The leaf bases join the stem without a petiole

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 yellow-orange, to 15 mm long, often solitary in leaf axils or in small groups. The standard is about 15 mm across with red markings. The keel also has red tones; flowering mainly in spring.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, they are approximately 6 mm long and swollen.

In the garden

This shrub is known to be cultivated with some success. It is fast growing with a lengthy life span in the wild and prefers well-drained soil in partial sun to grow at it best.

There is a prostrate form that has been commercially available. Seed is also commercially available.

It has a nice architectural form with its interesting foliage.

Flowers are a nectar source for native wasps and bees. Wallabies graze foliage.

Many members of this genus can be a little difficult to establish in a garden situation.

In a garden situation they prefer soil with moderate drainage and 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.

Collect seed from mid Oct to late Feb. Monitor closely as seeds shed immediately or within 1-2 days of maturity.

Other information

This species was previously known as Pultenaea cunninghamii. This species is the result of lumping of several previously known and variable taxa.

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).

spinosa – is derived from the Latin spinosus meaning “thorny”, referring to the prickly leaves of the species.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea spinosa 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.

Woolshed Thurgoona Landcare Group – Pultenaea spinosa profile page

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke