Pultenaea subspicata

Low Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

An erect to prostrate shrub, to 0.6 metres tall, with sparsely hairy stems.

It grows in NSW, mainly on the central and southern tablelands; yet there are scattered records on the north coast as far as Pottsville, as well as around Grafton and Coffs Harbour, as well as east of Walcha; then with a large disjunction to east of Kandos and around Lithgow, spreading south through the central and southern tablelands to the border, (with a few records near Narooma and Moruya on the south coast).

The known range finishes in a small part of north-eastern Victoria.

It grows in dry sclerophyll forest and woodland, usually on stony soils and disturbed areas.

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, elliptic to concave, to 10 mm long and to 2 mm wide, concave in cross section, with blunt tips, and margins curved to rolled upwards; mid-green to blue-green in colour; stipules to 4 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 10 mm long, and arranged in dense terminal heads, surrounded by leaves; yellow to orange to pinkish or red; with the standard petal to 10 mm wide, sometimes with red to brown marking; wings yellow or pink to orange-red; and the keel orange to red-brown; occurring most of the year

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, the pod is 5 mm long, swollen with a tuft of hairs at the tip.

In the garden

Not a lot is currently known about this species in cultivation. It may be more commonly cultivated in the future. Check with local native nurseries for availability. It grows on stony soils naturally, and so may need similar garden conditions to thrive. There are prostrate forms which may make nice groundcovers.

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.

Seeds are 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 taxa with some informally recognises and some that are species-complex.

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).

subspicata – Latin – sub meaning “under” or “below” and spicata meaning “spikes” or “ears” – referring to the species having flowers in short spikes, according to George Bentham.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea subspicata profile page

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

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native PlantsPropagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke