Small Purple Pea (Swainsona recta) - An endangered species

The Small Purple Pea ( Swainsona recta ) is a slender, erect perennial plant producing several rigid stems 20-30 cm high. The leaves are pinnate, 5-7 cm long with 7-11 narrow leaflets. The flowers are purple or bluish borne in spikes of 10 to 21 which are 10-27 cm long.

The Small Purple Pea has in the past been relatively widespread, having been recorded in north-eastern Victoria and the south and central western slopes and tablelands of NSW. Over the past 60-years its known range has been drastically reduced and fragmented into four small populations in central eastern NSW (between Wellington and Mudgee) and two small populations and one larger population in the Canberra-Williamsdale district. Fewer than 4,000 plants now survive. A single plant was found near Glenrowan, Victoria in 1996. The largest known population has about 3,400 plants and is scattered along 22 km of railway easement in NSW from Tralee to Williamsdale.

The largest ACT population is on Mount Taylor where 94 plants over 0.03 ha were recorded. A second population of 12 plants occurs in suburban Kambah and a single plant has been recorded on what was old Long Gully Road.

The Small Purple Pea is found in open woodland with a grassy understorey. In the ACT region, soils are grey sandy or stony loams on undulating terrain. It resprouts each autumn and winter from a woody root and flowers in spring. Plant are thought to live for 20 years or more. Seed germination is enhanced by fire.

Conservation Threats

Throughout the ACT region the Small Purple Pea is at risk from habitat loss and degradation due to agricultural and urban development, change in grazing pressures and competition-by understorey species that have flourished under a reduced fire frequency or invading weeds. The small and fragmented nature of ACT populations make them susceptible to destruction from a single catastrophic event.

Conservation Action

The major conservation objective is to maintain existing viable populations of the Small Purple Pea.

This will be achieved by:

  • maintaining, and increasing if feasible, the size of the Mt Taylor and Kambah populations; and
  • participating in a regional and multi-agency effort to increase knowledge of the species' biology and conservation requirements so that management can be improved.

More information

Small Purple Pea Action Plan

Contact Details

Parks and City Services (PACS)

Contact Number
13 22 81
Postal Address
GPO Box 158 Canberra ACT 2601
Facsimile Number
(02) 6207 5366 (Head Office)
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