Sturt’s Desert Pea William Thomas/ClimateWatcher

Sturt’s Desert Pea

Swainsona formosa

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.

Low spreading ground cover up to 3 m wide and 30 cm 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 9 cm 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.

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What to Observe

  • First fully open single flower

  • Full flowering (record all days)

  • End of flowering (when 95% of the flowers have faded)

  • How many plants

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When and Where

When To Look

  • Flowering June to October

Where To Look

  • Found from the North-western coast, east into the desert and south to Kalgoorlie and the Nullabor Plain
  • In all other Australian states
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What Else?

Similar Species

Sturt's Desert Pea is one of Australia's best known wildflowers and the floral emblem for South Australia.

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