Nature conservation

Threatened species

Small Purple-pea - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Swainsona recta
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Endangered
Profile last updated: 22 Aug 2018


Small Purple-pea is a slender, erect perennial herb growing to 30 cm tall. The leaves are divided into up to six pairs of 10 mm long, very narrow leaflets, each with a pointed tip. There is also a single leaflet at the end of each divided leaf. It bears one to several sprays of between 10 and 20 purple, pea-shaped flowers, between late September and early December. Flowers are followed by pods up to 10 mm long in summer.


Small Purple-pea was recorded historically from places such as Carcoar, Culcairn and Wagga Wagga where it is probably now extinct. Populations still exist in the Queanbeyan and Wellington-Mudgee areas. Over 80% of the southern population grows on a railway easement. It is also known from the ACT and a single population of four plants near Chiltern in Victoria.

Habitat and ecology

  • Before European settlement Small Purple-pea occurred in the grassy understorey of woodlands and open-forests dominated by Blakely’s Red Gum Eucalyptus blakelyi, Yellow Box E. melliodora, Candlebark Gum E. rubida and Long-leaf Box E. goniocalyx.
  • Grows in association with understorey dominants that include Kangaroo Grass Themeda australis, poa tussocks Poa spp. and spear-grasses Austrostipa spp.
  • Plants die back in summer, surviving as a rootstocks until they shoot again in autumn.
  • Flowers throughout spring, with a peak in October.
  • Seeds ripen at the end of the year.
  • Individual plants have been known to live for up to 20 years.
  • Generally tolerant of fire, which also enhances germination by breaking the seed coat and reduces competition from other species.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Darling Riverine PlainsBogan-Macquarie Known None
Darling Riverine PlainsCastlereagh-Barwon Predicted None
NSW South Western SlopesCapertee Valley Known None
NSW South Western SlopesInland Slopes Known None
NSW South Western SlopesLower Slopes Known None
Other StateACT Known None
South Eastern HighlandsCapertee Uplands Predicted None
South Eastern HighlandsMonaro Known None
South Eastern HighlandsMurrumbateman Known None
South Eastern HighlandsOrange Known None
Sydney BasinWollemi Known None