Pultenaea villifera

Cobwebbed Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A spreading to erect shrub, to 2 metres tall by 2 metres wide, with moderately hairy stems described as villous (hairs spreading, open and shaggy).

It is confined to NSW, occurring within the South and Central Coasts and Southern Tablelands subdivisions; south from around Springwood in the Blue Mountains, with a disjunction to Robertson-Jamberoo area, then disjunct again to south of Nowra; with records near Yalwal and Falls Creek and then commonly at Beecroft Peninsula and Jervis Bay, extending south towards Milton; then with more disjunctions through the southern tablelands and south coast area to as far south as west of Eden.

All populations in NSW are var. villifera

Another variety, var. glabrascens occurs on Kangaroo Island (off South Australia).

It grows on coastal sandplain heath and mallee shrubland, as well as dry sclerophyll forest, on sandy soils, often in more sheltered and moist situations.

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, narrow-ovate, flat to concave, to 20 mm long and 5 mm wide, soft to touch but with an aristate tip and a sharp point (prickly), and with incurved margins, dark green in colour, with spreading white hairs; stipules to 6 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 12 mm long, often produced solitarily or in 2s, on short lateral shoots, in leaf axils; bright yellow, to somewhat orange; the standard to 15 mm across, sometimes with red striations; the wings yellow to orange and the keel yellow, sometimes with red markings.

The fruit of all peas is a pod. In this species, the pod is swollen to 5 mm long.

In the garden

Currently, not a lot of information is available regarding this species in cultivation. It may be difficult to grow or may need more trialling. It is a really nice plant in terms of its foliage which is very different to most other species. It does not flower overly heavily but would make a nice foliage shrub. It grows on sandy soils, usually with some moisture, and so may need these requirements replicated in any garden.

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).

villifera – Latin meaning “villous” – covered with long, loose (not dense), spreading hairs.

In NSW, var. villifera is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.
However, the population in the Blue Mountains is listed as an endangered population under State legislation.
In South Australia, var. glabrescens, is listed as a threatened subspecies under Commonwealth legislation.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea villifera profile page

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage – Threatened Species Profiles – Pultenaea villifera endangered population profile page

Plants of South Eastern NSW – Pultenaea villifera profile page

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke