• Return to The Pea Key home page
  • Learn
  • Tips
  • Search
  • Terms

Pultenaea spinosa

Pultenaea spinosa (DC.) H.B.Will., Proc. Roy. Soc. Victoria ser. 2, 35: 100, t. VII (1922). Oxylobium spinosum DC. Prod. 2: 104 (1825). Typus: in Nova-Hollandia
[G (slide seen)]

Spadostyles cunninghami Benth., Annal. Wien. Mus. 2: 8 (1838). Pultenaea cunninghamii (Benth.) F.Muell., Fragm. 4: 21 (1863).
Type: Colony, 1822, Cunningham s.n. (syn-, BM, BM); Port Jackson, 1836, Cunningham 68 (syn-, BM, BM, K, K, K).

Euchilus cuspidatus F.Muell., Trans. and Proc. Philos. InSt Victoria 2: 68 (1858). Pultenaea ternata F.Muell var. cuspidata (F.Muell)
Benth., Fl. Austral. 2: 122 (1864). Typus: Moreton Bay, on forest ridge, Hill and Mueller s.n.; (holo-, ?; iso-, K, K) syn. nov.

Pultenaea ternata F.Muell., Fragm. 4: 20 (1863) (nom. supfl.). Spadostyles ternata F.Muell., First General Report of the Government Botanist on the Vegetation of the Colony 12 (1853). Typus: Buffalo Range, granite ridges, ii.1853, Mueller s.n. (holo-, K; photo-, MEL).

Pultenaea heterochila F.Muell., Fragm. 4: 21 (1863) (nom. illeg.).

Pultenaea ternata F.Muell var. pubescens Benth., Fl. Austral. 2: 122 (1864). Typus: Newcastle and Ruined-Castle Ck, Leichhardt s.n. (syn-, K); Hunter's river, Vicary s.n. (syn-, K); Clarence river, Beckler s.n. (syn-, K).

Pultenaea cunninghamii var. pubescens Benth. ex H.B.Will., Proc. Roy. Soc. Victoria 35: 100 (1922). Typus: Victoria, Upper Murray; (syn- ?); Mitta Mitta (syn-, MEL; iso-syn- K); NSW: Hunter and Clarence Rivers (syn-, ?); Queensland, Helidon, F.M. Bailey s.n. (syn-, ?); Darling Downs, H. Law s.n. (syn-, ?).

Pultenaea subternata H.B.Will., Proc. Roy. Soc. Victoria ser. 2, 37: 128 (1925). Typus: New South Wales, Hill End, Dr. Lanterer s.n. (syn-, ?); NSW, Trunkey, Boorman s.n (syn- MEL); NSW, Orange, Boorman s.n (syn-, ?); NSW, Mudgee, N. Taylor s.n. (syn-, ?); NSW, Orange, Cambage s.n. (syn- ?); NSW, West of Blue Mountains, Miss King s.n, (syn-?); NSW, Sofala, Cambage 2748 (syn-?); NSW, Murray River, Cunningham s.n. [syn-, K (n.v.)] syn. nov.


Erect to prostrate shrub, 0.3–3 m high, sometimes glaucous; branchlets spreading to drooping, glabrous to sparsely hairy. Leaves alternate to ternate or rarely decussate (1.8–)4–15 × (1.5–)3.8–21 mm, ratio 0.6–1.2, ovate to elliptic, oblong to clavate, flat, straight; leathery, smooth, concolorous to rarely paler above, grey-green to light green with young growth often reddish tinged or bronzy, venation palmate; apex acute to acuminate, pungent, rarely spine absent; base obtuse to rounded; margin flat to rarely incurved, straight; hairs absent to sparsely hairy, appressed to ascending. Petioles not decurrent. Stipules (1–)1.9–2.1 mm long, appressed to recoiled, entire. Inflorescences lax, flower-subtending bracts herbaceous. Calyx 5–8.3 mm long, glabrous to sparsely hairy, lower lobes straight, upper lobes recurved, margin with curly hairs, upper lobe apex acute, lower lobes apex acuminate. Bracteoles 3–4 mm long, linear to triangular or rarely tri-dentate, scarious, insertion on the calyx, glabrous or rarely ciliate. Standard 6.3–14 mm long (pale) orange to yellow (rarely whitish) with usually red markings on back or front; wing 5.5–14.2 mm long, orange to yellow (rarely whitish) usually with red markings at apex; keel 5.8–12.5 mm long (dark) reddish-brown to orange or yellow (rarely whitish). Ovary glabrous or rarely with a tuft of hairs at apex only, style hooked. Pods 6–7 mm long, gla-brous or rarely with a tuft of hairs at apex, seeds 2.6–3.4 mm long, aril apex entire. 2n = 14 (Sands 1975). Spiny or downy grey bush-pea (Galbraith 1977); grey bush-pea (Costermans 1996; Galbraith 1977) or barberry bush-pea (Mitchell 329).


Flowering from (August) September to November (June); fruiting from November to January (June).

Habitat and ecology

Occasional to common in dry sclerophyll forest orwoodlands (often dominated by Acacia aulacocarpa, Eucalyptus albens, E. camphora, E. dalrympleana, E. goniocalyx, E. maculata, E. macrorrhyncha, E. muellerana, E. radiata or E. sieberi). Stony, laterite or sandy clay or a (sandy) loam, ironstone, shale or granite at altitude 20–1000 m.


From Victoria's Eastern Highlands district via NSW: Western Slopes, Tablelands and Coasts to Queensland's Leichhardt district (see map).


De Candolle (1825) first described this species as Oxylobium spinosum. In 1922, Williamson transferred the name to Pultenaea as a close relative of P. cunninghamii with more rounded leaves and a prostrate habit from Queensland and northern NSW. Although the difference between this form and the typical form of P. cunninghamii can be great and is apparently stable after transplantation (a prostrate and an erect plant are growing in the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra), intermediate forms can be found (Johnson 7184, Taws 103, Story and Yapp 275: small leaves but not prostrate; Story and Yapp 275, Williams 77137: small and bigger leaves on one collection) see also Fig. 10. Pultenaea spinosa is therefore conspecific with P. cunninghamii and, as the older name, it has priority. Individual plants can vary greatly in degree and place of hairiness. The difference between glabrous and almost completely (stems, leaves and pods) hairy specimens seems to be correlated with a North–South cline. Specimens from Victoria are always glabrous, southern NSW and the ACT specimens generally only have hairs on the stems (seldom glabrous or completely hairy) and from the Central Tablelands and further north to southern Queensland, specimens can have hairs on the stems, leaves and pods (seldom glabrous or only on the stem). If the leaves have hairs then the ovary and subsequently the pod has a tuft of hairs on the apex as well. Intermediate forms between these extremes can be found and often intermediate stages can be seen on different parts of the same plant (see Jones 6292, completely hairy to only hairy branches; Telford 5813 glabrous to only hairy branches). A number of hairy forms were described in the past. Bentham (1864) described a hairy form as P. ternata F.Muell. var. pubescens Benth. and Williamson (1922) described a variety P. cunninghamii var. pubescens Williamson mainly on the basis of hairiness and the smaller leaf form and he did it again in 1925 when he described the species P. subternata.The size of the flowers and leaves can vary greatly between individuals; however, no gap in flower size was found which could be used as a character to distinguish between P. cunninghamii, P. spinosa and P. subternata (see Weston 1991, D'Arnay 220). The types of both Euchilus cuspidatus and Pultenaea ternata fall completely within the variation of Pultenaea spinosa.The leaves can be ternate, decussate or alternate. Most specimens have only one particular arrangement but some specimens can have all three forms (Holgate Oct. 1973).


This species is reported to grow in the Angophora costata–Eucalyptus spp. suballiance (Beadle 1981). In the leaves and stems, the presences of alkaloids could not be detected using the prollius extract (Webb 1952) and no saponins, steroids and unsaturated triterpenes could be found (Simes et al. 1959). No anti-tumour activity in the plant extract was found (Collins et al. 1990). For a list of characters distinguishing P. spinosa from morphologically similar species, see Table 8.

[Source: R. P. J. de Kok and J. G. West, "A revision of Pultenaea (Fabaceae) 1. Species with ovaries glabrous and/or with tufted hairs", Australian Systematic Botany 15(1): 81-113 (2002)]