Botany

An Overview of the Australian Plant Genus Pultenaea



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The Pultenaea genus is endemic to Australia – all 100 odd species of them. They belong in the pea-flower subfamily which itself is part of the legume (Fabaceae) family. Most species are in the eastern states with only a few native to South Australia and Western Australia. Members of this genus vary from prostrate to tall, erect shrubs. The simple leaves are variably shaped and the flowers yellow, sometimes with red splotches.

Pultenaea scabra or rough bush-pea grows to 2 metres. It is endemic to south-eastern Australia and has densely hairy branches. The leaves are small and generally wedge-shaped. They are dark green in colour but lighter on the undersurfaces. It bears clusters of 3 or 4 yellow and red flowers in spring.

Pultenaea spinosa is also documented as P.cunninghamii. It has the common name of grey bush-pea. It is a small shrub with weeping foliage and is widespread throughout south-eastern Australia. The leaves are a grey-green and almost circular in shape. They appear in whorls of three with the main vein ending in a sharp spine. Yellow-orange flowers with red splotches appear from late spring to summer.

Sandstone heaths are the natural habitat of Pultenaea stipularis. It is an erect shrub which grows around Sydney in New South Wales. It grows to 2 metres with a spread of almost a metre. It has narrow, pine-like leaves with long brown stipules covering the stem. In spring, dense terminal yellow flower heads are produced. In the case of bushfires, seed which has been dormant in the ground from previous years will sprout into new plants.

Another species found down the east coast of Australia from south-east Queensland to south-east New South Wales is Pultenaea villosa. This spreading shrub has a weeping habit with long, hairy leaves. In spring, yellow flowers cover the bushes. There is also a prostrate form of this species.

Pultenaea humilis has the common name of dwarf bush-pea. It is native to New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. It is a small shrub with dense, hairy leaves. The heads of orange and yellow, or orange and brown, pea-flowers appear mainly from August to November. Although often fairly insignificant when not in bloom, the flowers provide a very showy display of colour. It responds well to light pruning after flowering.

Under cultivation, the bush-pea needs excellent drainage. It also needs acid to neutral soil and partial shade to full sun. Mulching generally helps the well-being of the plant. If propagating this plant from seed, the seeds need pre-treating either by scoring or by soaking them in hot water.

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