(previously Clianthus formosus)Common name: Sturt’s Desert Pea or Dampier Pea in Western Australia.
Family: FABACEAE (730 Genera)
Origin of Scientific Name
Swainsona - After Isaac Swainson (1746 – 1812), London physician who developed a private botanical garden at Twickenham, England.
formosa - from Latin formosus = beautiful, well shaped, referring to the flower.
This is a prostrate, creeping annual or perennial with silky grey-green, pinnate leaves. The large (typically about 90 mm long), very striking, scarlet flowers are almost unrecognisable as pea flowers, and are typically borne in groups of 5 or 6 on thick peduncles (stalks). The boss on these flowers (the swollen central part) is typically black, sometimes red and rarely, white. There are natural colour variations within this species including pinks, yellows and even an albino form.
Inland areas of all of mainland Australia, except for Victoria. It extends to the coast in Western Australia, north of Shark Bay (where the desert meets the sea). Refer to the distribution map for this species via the Department of Environment and Conservation's FloraBase online herbarium.
June to October
Easily grown from seed, pre-treated either by soaking in warm tap water for 24 hours or until swollen, or scarifying (abrade the seed coat with rough sandpaper or a file), or nicking (you can use nail clippers). They are best sown in situ (ground or pots), as they do not seem to like root disturbance. Though they thrive in the desert, they appreciate some water to grow well and flower. Treat as annuals.
Pests and DiseasesProtect seedling from snails and other leaf-eating pests.
View In Kings Park
In the garden bed opposite Lord Forrest's statue (eastern side). To help locate this site, you may download the Western Australian Botanic Garden Guide brochure via our brochures page.
Swainsona formosa was adopted as the floral emblem of South Australia in 1961 when it was known as Clianthus formosus.