Plant Profiles Bossiaea

Bossiaeas belong to the legume family Fabaceae. There are some 50 species, all endemic to Australia. They are small to medium evergreen shrubs. New growth is often furry and branchlets may be tipped with spines. The blooms may be borne singly or in clusters of 2 or 3. They are often brightly coloured and will normally only open under sunny skies.

Bossiaea aquifolium or water bush is endemic to Western Australia and is found in the forests of the extreme south-west. The small leaves are spined and toothed and appear in opposite pairs on the stems. New growth is covered with brown hairs. The flowers are bright yellow with a brownish keel (the two fused lower petals of a pea-flower).

Bossiaea buxifolia or matted bossiaea is well-named. It is usually prostrate in habit forming a mat although it may sometimes grow as an erect plant. The tiny rounded leaves have a red tint in winter. The yellow flowers have a deep red keel. The prostrate form is a good choice for rockeries.

Bossiaea walkeri grows to 2 metres and has a wide range across southern Australia. It occurs in arid and semi-arid regions. It is a robust shrub with flattened, dull blue-green branches which have a whitish crust. There are no leaves. The flowers are about 25mm long and are a pale red.

Bossiaea scolopendria (centipede pea) is unusual for the species. It has flattened leathery stems with alternating tiny leaves. The flowers are a golden yellow with a red-brown centre and appear at the tips of very short stems. It is native to the central coastal region of New South Wales and is found on poor sandstone soil.

Another bossiaea found on sandstone is Bossiaea kiamensis which is found only in a small area of New South Wales. It occurs on the sandstone escarpment behind the coastal towns of Kiama and Nowra. It has crowded stiff leaves and bears prolific yellow flowers with a small red-brown central patch in mid to late spring.

The showy bossiaea or Bossiaea cinerea grows to 100cm and frequents south-eastern Australia. The leaves are small and almost triangular, tipped with spines and covered with silvery grey hairs. In spring, it has red and yellow flowers. It does best in light sandy soil and can be grown in a protected position in coastal gardens. Light pruning will aid in keeping a compact appearance.

Under cultivation, the bossiaea does best in light well-drained soil. It can be positioned in full sun or partial shade. Although they can be lightly fed and watered, too much cosseting will result in much leaf growth but a shortened life.