An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. 235 Roadside Sturt's Desert Pea photo courtesy Biota Environmental Sciences
  2. 235_0 Flowering photo courtesy Biota Environmental Sciences
  3. 235_1 Flowering close up photo courtesy Biota Environmental Sciences
  4. Pods_by_bill_and_mark_bell-001 Pods (10-12mm in length) by Bill & Mark Bell

Sturt's Desert Pea

Swainsona formosa


  • Size: Low spreading ground cover up to 3m wide and 30cm high.
  • Leaves: Dull green leaves are made up of 7 pairs of oval-shaped leaflets.  Stems leaves and pods are covered in short soft hairs.
  • Flowers: Red flowers are arranged in upright stalks in groups of 3 or more.  Each flower is up to 9cm from the top of the standard to the base of the keel.  The standard is the large petal with the black dome at its base.  In some plants the dome may be red and albino varieties with completely white flowers have been found in the Pilbara.
  • Pods: The pods are hard and light brown when ripe and if shaken the seeds rattle inside them.

What to Observe

  • How Many plants
  • First fully open single flower
  • Full flowering  
  • End of flowering (when 95% of the flowers have faded)

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect plants to start shooting and flowering earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas, as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.

When To Look

June to October for flowering

Where To Look

Found from the North-western coast, east into the desert and south to Kalgoorlie and the Nullabor Plain.  It is also found in all other Australian states.

Sturt's Desert Pea Occurrence Map ALA



Napier, J. & van Leeuwen, S. 2008, Common Plants of the Pilbara, Department of Environment and Conservation

Woodley, M et al Wangalili Yindjibarndi and Ngarluma Plants, Juluwaru Aboriginal Corporation, 

  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    A distinctive and iconic species, unlikely to be confused with any other when in flower

  1. Did You Know?

    Although named after the early explorer, Charles Sturt, this legume was first collected by William Dampier on an island in the Dampier Archipelago in 1699.

    Floral emblem for South Australia

    Sturt's desert pea is one of Australia's best known wildflowers