Tephrosia brachyodon

red pea-bush


Tephrosia brachyodon

Domin. 1912

pronounced: tef-ROH-see-uh brack-ee-OWE-don

(Fabaceae — the pea family)

subfamily: Faboideae - the bean subfamily


common name: red pea-bush

native 4Tephrosia comes from the Greek τεφρος (tephros), ash-coloured, referring to the grey down on the leaves; brachyodon is from βραχυς (brachus), short and, I think, 'οδος (hodos), a way, road. There are at least 6 varieties:

                        • Tephrosia brachyodon var. longifolia (Benth.) Domin
                         • Tephrosia brachyodon var. longipes Domin
                         • Tephrosia brachyodon var. multiflora Domi
                         • Tephrosia brachyodon var. rufescens (Benth.) Domin
                         • Tephrosia brachyodon var. cloncurriensis Domin
                         • Tephrosia brachyodon var. brachyodon Domin

This last variety of the plant is one of those collected in 1770 by Banks and Solander during the voyage of the Endeavour. It was collected at the Endeavour River (Cooktown).

Betsy Jackes mentions that there are 3 varieties recorded on the island, but does not say which they are, and I do not know the variety of the plant pictured, by the Forts walking track.

The plant is endemic to Australia, occurring right across the top end and down the east coast of Queensland as far as the south-east of the state, at an altitude from near sea level up to about 700 m, usually on sandy soils. It is a widespread and very variable species. This is a shrub or subshrub that usually flowers and fruits when it is 1 – 2 m tall, but it occasionally flowers when it is smaller.

The leaves are 5 – 15 cm long, paripinnate, with anything from 3 to 31 leaflets present. The leaflets are lanceolate to oblong or cuneate, 15 – 30 mm long, 2 – 5 mm wide; the upper surface is glabrous, and the lower surface finely pubescent, almost silky; the petioles are 10 – 30 mm long, the petiolules 1 – 2 mm. The rachis of the leaf is distinctly grooved on the upper surface. The stipules are subulate.

The inflorescence is a terminal raceme, and varies from about 6 to 25 cm in length, the flowers being pink to purple, and occasionally white. The calyx is about 3 or 4 mm long, clothed in rusty hairs. As for the petals, the standard is about 9 – 13 by 8 – 15 mm, the wings about 8 – 15 mm long, bigger than the keel. There are 10 stamens, their filaments fused to form a tube that is open on one side.

The fruit is a linear pod, more-or-less compressed, about 25 – 50 mm long by 3 – 4 mm wide, often curved, and each pod contains 5 – 9 seeds. These seeds are almost cylindrical, about 4 mm long.

In the past this plant has been confused with Tephrosia purpurea, and some authorities still give that name as a synonym. Further work is needed to define the taxon limits of the species.


Plants of Magnetic Island 3rd Ed. JCU


Photographs taken by the Forts Walk, 2014, 2015
Page last updated 19th April 2019