Plant Profiles Hovea

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The Hovea genus belongs to the legume family of Fabaceae and to the pea-flower subfamily. There are 38 species in the Hovea genus, all endemic to Australia. There is a wide distribution of this plant through woodlands and open forests. The leaves are arranged in an alternate pattern and are mostly oblong to linear in shape and rarely toothed.

It can be rather straggly and insignificant until it flowers. Then, stunning masses of blue-purple pea-flowers transform the bushes into an eye-catching spectacle.

Hovea acutifolia is well known by Australian wildflower enthusiasts. It is found in the wet forests and rainforest margins from the central New South Wales coast north to south-east Queensland. The term ‘acutifolia’ comes from Latin ‘acutus’ meaning pointed and ‘folius’ a leaf, referring to the pointed leaves of the plant. It is a small to medium shrub and often has an upright habit. Dense grey to rusty hairs cover the stems and branches. New growth has an attractive reddish colouring. The flowers are blue to mauve/purple. This species is adaptable and grows well in temperate and subtropical areas. It prefers a well-drained, partly shaded location.

Hovea lanceolata is an open shrub bearing a sparse amount of oblong leaves to 6cm long. It is native to Queensland and New South Wales. It grows to 1 metre with a similar spread. The blue to purple flowers appear in winter through to spring. It is likely to do best if planted in a well-drained, semi-shaded position. It is frost tolerant and can be grown in protected seaside gardens. It has the common name of lance-leaf hovea.

Rusty pod is the unusual common name given to Hovea longifolia. This open, erect shrub grows to 3 metres and is found in woodlands in south-east New South Wales. The leaves are narrow and have curled margins. The flowers are a blue-mauve with yellow centres. Flowering is from winter to spring. This variety requires free-draining soil, summer moisture and cool roots.

Hovea montana or mountain hovea occurs naturally in alpine and subalpine heath areas of south-east Australia. It is a spreading shrub. The branchlets have hairy, narrow, oval leaves. The flowers are a violet-blue (sometimes white) and are produced from winter through to spring. The pods which follow the flowers have reddish fine felting.

Hovea purpurea is an erect shrub from south-eastern Australia. It occurs naturally on moist river banks. It has hairy branchlets and dark green, narrow leaves which are rusty and furry on the under surfaces. The large flowers are mauve or lilac with pale yellow centres. Occasionally the flowers will be white. This is a spring flowering species.

Hoveas prefer filtered light and moisture during summer. Most require freely draining sites. Dense growth can be encouraged by moderate pruning immediately after flowering. Keep the roots cool over summer by applying a thick mulch. Stones or pavers are also suitable for keeping root systems cool.

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