Pultenaea stipularis

Fine-leaf Bush-pea, Handsome Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect shrub to 2 metres tall, by 1 to 2 metres, with hairless stems.

It has a comparatively small range in NSW, growing mostly in coastal areas, from Gosford, as far west as near Bilpin and south to Springwood, through the greater Sydney area and through the Royal National Park, with very scattered records between Wollongong and Jervis Bay. Pigeon House mountain appears to be the southern-most extent (west of Ulladulla).

It grows usually in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest as well as heathland and mallee shrubland, on sandstone 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 but clustered heavily on stems, stiff in their structure but with an overall soft feel, to 30 mm long and to 2 mm wide, flat or slightly concave in cross section and the tips with a stiff bristle; dark green to blue-green in colour. The stipules are very noticeable amongst the leaves, densely clustered on stems, brown, to 10 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, flowers are to 15 mm long, arranged in dense terminal heads, yellow to orange in colour; the standard petal is yellow to orange and about 15 mm wide, sometimes with red to red-brown stripes at the front; wings yellow to orange; and the keel yellow to red brown; occurring from Winter to Summer.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, pods are to 7 mm long, with a tuft of hairs at the tips and swollen.

In the garden

This species is not often cultivated. It is one of the most attractive and showy pultenaeas. It has very bright conspicuous flowers and soft but stiff foliage which is a pleasure to run through the hand.

It is stated in the literature below that it is a hardy plant in well-drained situations. It would be a beautiful addition to any garden if it can be established. Check with local native nurseries. It grows on free-draining sandstone soils in the wild, and so may need this replicated in a garden. Often grows in sunny spots to semi-shade.

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).

stipularis – Latin referring to “furnished with or bearing stipules”. In the past, a stipela (Italian) or stipula (Latin) referred to a piece of straw.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea stipularis profile page

Australian Plants Society – Sutherland: Coastal Plants of the Royal National Park Profiles (CD) – Pultenaea stipularis 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.

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

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke