Pultenaea villosa

Hairy Bush-pea, Bronze Bush-pea

Family: Fabaceae subfamily Faboideae

A shrub to 2 or 3 metres tall (sometimes prostrate in some northern populations), with smooth bark and hairy stems.

It has a mostly coastal distribution in NSW, extending into the western parts of the coastal subdivisions, from as far south as north of Merimbula, occurring with a patchy distribution, through Sydney and north along the rest of the coast (possibly as far west as Bathurst and Tamworth); extending into Queensland, as far as just north of Bundaberg.

It is found in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest as well as heath and grasslands, often on transitional soils but on a range of substrates.

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, but crowded along stems, to 10 mm long and to 3 mm wide, broad obovate to cuneate to spathulate, generally soft to touch, mid to light green, and with spreading open hairs.

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, arranged in terminal or sub-terminal clusters, in low numbers, bright yellow in colour, with the standard petal yellow to slightly orange, with red-brown stripes on the front; wings yellow to yellow-orange; and the keel red-brown; flowering mainly in spring but at other times as well.

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

In the garden

This is one of the easier Pultenaeas to cultivate and it has been grown by enthusiasts for many years. It is best suited to moist, well drained soils with some light, overhead protection from full sun. It does not, however, grow well in heavy shade. It tolerates at least moderate frost.

Editor’s notes: This Editor has grown this plant previously in Sydney. It did well for a year and then died off – likely due to poor drainage. It is being tried again in a sandstone-sloping garden.

It is best grown as a specimen plant to show off it flowers and graceful weeping form. Many of APS members (author included) have tried to grow this plant with limited success, long term.

If the drainage is good, it should prove to be a hardy plant.

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.

The seed retains viability for many years and 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 95-100 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. This species regenerates in large numbers after fire and can be a dominant lower-midstorey shrub in some habitats.

Pultenaea – is named in honour of Dr Richard Pulteney (1730–1801) – an English botanist who published a biography of Carl von Linne (Linnaeus).

villosa – from Latin – villosus – meaning “shaggy/hairy”, referring to the hairy stems and branches, generally with shortish, white but open (not overly dense) hairs.

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

Australian National Herbarium – Pultenaea villosa profile page

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Pultenaea villosa 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.

Australian Native Plants Society Australia – Pultenaea villosa profile page

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke