Plant Profiles Templetonia Genus

The templetonia genus has just 11 species, all of them endemic to southern and western Australia. While all are shrubs or subshrubs with similar flowers, they vary in form with some having no leaves and others having small, scale-like leaves. The templetonia belongs to the legume Fabaceae family and has typical pea-flowers usually either red or yellow. The memory of the Irish naturalist and botanist, John Templeton, is commemorated by the naming of the Templetonia genus.

Templetonia retusa, more commonly known as Cockies Tongues, is the most commonly grown of the species. It is endemic to coastal South Australia and southern Western Australia. It may grow to 2 metres with a similar spread. It is usually an upright shrub. It has small, leathery, deep blue-green, wedge-shaped or rounded leaves which are notched at the top. From May to October it flowers profusely, displaying showy, large bright pink or red (rarely white) pea flowers from May to October. The flowers make a stunning contrast to the foliage. It prefers a relatively open position. Some of the reasons why it is so popular in domestic gardens include the fact that it will cope with an exposed coastal situation, it has some tolerance to frost (this is not typical of templeonias) and it is a favourite with bird species. There are also white and yellow coloured varieties available.

Templetonia egena (round templetonia) has the common name of desert broom bush. It is found throughout the continent mainly on red sandy or lateritic soils. It is an erect, multi-stemmed shrub which may reach 3 metres high. Yellow, brown, red or purple flowers appear mainly in spring. The leaves are reduced to short broad scales carried on slender branchlets.

Templetonia sulcata has the common name of flat mallee pea. It is a multi-stemmed shrub of about 1 metre high with flat, ridge branches. The branches are typically 3 to 5mm wide and often end in a short spine.  The leaves are reduced to small scales and brownish red and yellow flowers appear mainly in spring. Templetonia sulcata occurs on mallee country in sandy red soils. It is found in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

Templetonia drummondii is a prostrate or ascending shrub which grows only to about 0.6m high. It is yellow, brown and purple flowers from August to September. It is found on lateritic soils.

These plants are generally easy to grow if they are protected from frosts and given a really well-draining position. They prefer light gritty soil in full sun or partial shade. They can be lightly pruned or just have the tips nipped out to keep them compact.