Friday, 9 November 2007

#37 Purple and yellow peas

Most Hunter Valley spring-blooming wildflowers have wilted and will now be producing seed. But some late bloomers that are still putting on a show are Helichrysum (everlastings), Melaleucas (paperbarks), some lilies and violets, along with many fabulous rushes and grasses. The 'peas' have also nearly finished flowering, but here are six beauties that I photographed earlier in the season:

Swainsona galegifolia - Smooth Darling Pea

Swainsona galegifolia - Smooth Darling Pea

There are about 28 species of Swainsona growing naturally in NSW, most of which are plants of the drier western slopes and plains. They have mauve to purple flowers and pinnate leaves (a compound leaf with leaflets on a common stalk).

I found these attractive plants on a sheltered, damp, rocky embankment on the Gresford to Dungog Road. Their flowering period is October to December, but I photographed these flowering plants in mid September.

Pinnate leaves of Swainson galegifolia

It is a flimsy bush to about 1 metre tall that sways in the breeze. Racemes of several large pink to mauve flowers on short stalks make a showy display. Swollen, leathery, hairless seed pods are lime-green often tinged with red, and 25 to 40mm long with a beak up to 15mm long.

There is more information on Smooth Darling Pea, including NSW distribution, at PlantNET.

Seed pods and stamens of Smooth Darling Pea. Swainsona species all have 9 stamens united and 1 free

Gompholobium latifolium - Broad-leaf Wedge-pea

Gompholobium are shrubs with leaves in sets of threes, or occasionally pinnate. Pods are round and inflated, flowers are usually yellow and have ten free stamens.

Large bright yellow flowers of Broad-leaf Wedge-pea

Broad-leaf Wedge-pea is an erect shrub generally about 1 metre in height with completely yellow, large flowers 25 to 30mm long. Flowers are borne on short stalks in leaf axils (between stem and leaf stalk) of the upper leaves. Leaves are in groups of three, flat or with edges slightly curved under, 30 to 50mm long and 3 to 5mm wide.

I found these Gompholobium shrubs growing in sandy heath amongst blackbutt forest at Heatherbrae in the lower Hunter Valley, flowering early in October. Their flowering period is August to November.

There is NSW distribution and more details on Broad-leaf Wedge-pea at PlantNET.

Leaves of Gompholobium latifolium are in groups of 3

Glycine tabacina

Glycine tabacina does not appear to have a common name, which is not all bad, as common names can tend to be confusing. Glycine are week twining plants with pale blue-mauve flowers and leaves divided into three leaflets. As far as I am aware, there are still unnamed species of Glycine in the area, so I am not 100% sure of my identifications.

Growth habit and habitat of Glycine tabacina

This slender trailing plant does not appear to have a rampant habit. Small purple flowers are in long erect racemes of few to several flowers. Leaves are 3-foliate (in groups of threes), to 70mm long and 20mm wide, and on short stalks with the stalk of the centre leaf noticably longer (this is an important identifying feature). There is more information at PlantNET.

Leaves of Glycine tabacina, with the stalk of the centre leaf noticably longer than that of the 2 lateral leaves

Calyx is only sparsely hairy, which is another identifying feature of this Glycine

Bossiaea scolopendria

Bossiaea is a genus of 42 species of shrubs with possibly a quarter represented in the Hunter region. Flowers are yellow with red centres; stamens are all united into a tube; fruit is a flattened pod, and stems are often flattened.

Bossiaea scolopendria also does not appear to have a common name. The leafless, flattened stems of this species are strong and erect and may grow up to 1 metre tall and 10mm wide.

Flowers are 10mm long, solitary along the stems, with stalks 1 to 3mm long. The pod is almost without a stalk. I found these plants flowering in sandy heath amongst eucalypt and banksia woodland at Heatherbrae in early October. It was a striking plant with its long flat leafless stems that I had breviously associated with Western Australian flora.

Its flowering period is August to October. There is more information at PlantNET.

Flat stems of Bossiaea scolopendria

Glycine clandestina - Twining Glycine

This slender trailing plant is usually found climbing over fallen branches, around grass stems or on low bushes. Apparently there have been three varieties recognised, all of which could occur in the Hunter Valley.

Leaves consist of 3 shortly-stalked leaflets which vary greatly in their size and shape. All 3 leaflets are on short and equal stalks or the terminal leaflet is stalkless (this is an important identifying feature).

Pale pink to mauve flowers are borne on slender stalks in loose racemes in the upper leaf axils. The plant is usually covered in small, but dense, backward-pointing hairs.

Mauve flowers and hairy calyx of Twining Glycine

I found this plant flowering in September and October, twining rampantly amongst and over swamp-side vegetation in the lower Hunter Valley. It can flower at any time of year. According to PlantNET, Glycine clandestina is a widespread species.

Picture showing leaf configuration and twining habit with stems of Twining Glycine twisting around sedge stalks

Templetonia stenophylla - Leafy Templetonia

The genus Templetonia appears to be represented by only about 11 species, all endemic to Australia. It is charactised by having alternate leaves which are mostly simple or reduced to scales. Pods and seeds are compressed.

Templetonia stenophylla is a small straggly ground hugging shrub with ridged stems to 50cm long. 1 or 2 10mm yellow and brown flowers grow from leaf axils. Leaves are simple, narrow, linear from 10 to 70mm long with a short recurved tip.

Pod, leaf, flower and stem characteristics of Templetonia stenophylla

I found several of these plants well hidden amongst grass on a clay hillside near Muswellbrook in the mid Hunter Valley, flowering in late September. There is more information at PlantNET.

Leafy Templetonia

I hope my photos and observations will help others identify some of their finds. The 'pea' flowers are from family Fabaceae, which is the third largest in the plant kingdom after the daisy and orchid families. The Fabaceae family is represented by about 90 genera and up to 900 species in Australia, while they are sparsely represented in some other countries.

Because of their ability to fix nitrogen, they are useful plants. Their role is to increase soil fertility and provide protection for plants. They often germinate quickly and are short-lived. In the absence of fire they tend to disappear from the understory in about 15 years.

PlantNET provides a simple key for Fabaceae species.

My native plant index contains a list of all pea flowers (with links) that I have featured in my blog. As time progesses, other plant families will be represented also.


Denis Wilson said...

Lovely photos (as usual) Gaye.

The Peas are really difficult to distinguish I feel. Some of your plants are different from what we have here in the Sthn Highlands. Some the same. Nice Gompholobium.

I have never had the patience, or courage, to publish my photos with species names. So, well done.



Gaye from the Hunter said...

hi Denis,

yes, the peas are often difficult to pin down, especially as I have no botanical training. I had some help with Templetonia stenophylla - an interesting plant.

I found the Templetonia and Glycine tabacina on a mine site, together with several other native plants and fungi. There were Supurb Blue Wrens and Sulphur-crested Cockies nesting, and Black Ducks parenting their chicks. There were kangaroos by the hoard, Wedge-tailed eagles nesting, and frogs calling. So it was heartening to see at least some native life surviving amongst industry.

I've had two recent nature observation excursions to the open-cut mine site, and hope to have another one following this much-needed rain.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gaye,
Excellent presentation of your sample of the pea flowers, with your usually great photos.
Identification of individual species in this Fabaceae family pose challenges without the appropriate Identification Keys and a microscope.
The pea flowers provide such a large variety of colours in the bush over a prolonged period of time.
Well done Gaye.

David said...

Hi Gaye -

Great post!

In northern Sydney we have quite a few (20 or more) "yellow" peas. These are the plants I struggle to ID! The purple and pink flowered peas I find easier!

Thankfully I've been helped out with a few tips and tricks by a botantist on flickr!


Gaye from the Hunter said...

hi Lola,

I've started out with the 'easy' ones that have distinct identifying features. Next year I will be more adventurous and photograph some of the non-descript peas and get down to the nitty gritty to see if I am able to separate them.

It's all good fun, and a self-teaching exercise :)


Gaye from the Hunter said...

hi David,

most of the peas up this way are also yellow, and they will be extremely difficult to identify once I get around to studying them more closely.

There are also some purple introduced peas (weeds and pasture plants), which will be a challenge.

The peas provide a major part of the splashes of spring colour in the Hunter Valley, so I am drawn to them with my curious nature :)


Blue Bird IM said...

Thank goodness I came across your blog today by chance!! I have been trying to identify a particular flower on our darling downs property for the last few months to no avail, until I found your wonderful blog. I was able to identify the Templetonia stenophylla as the flower. Thank you for the information, it is much appreciated! I look forward to reading more. Kind Regards, Judi.