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Genus Swainsona Family Fabaceae
Subfamily Faboideae

Description: Herbs or subshrubs, prostrate to erect, often many-stemmed, glabrous or variously hairy with hairs simple to medifixed.

Leaves usually imparipinnate; leaflets few to many, occasionally reduced or absent, margins entire; stipules present and usually with a prominent abaxial ridge, stipels usually absent.

Inflorescences axillary racemes; bracts present, bracteoles small. Calyx ± campanulate, teeth ± equal, or upper 2 shorter. Corolla mostly purple, occasionally white, pink, yellow, orange or red; standard usually longer than wings, sometimes longer than the keel. Stamens diadelphous, of alternating lengths; anthers uniform. Ovary usually ± stipitate; style incurved, usually bearded lengthwise along the upper part and often with a tuft of hairs behind the stigma; stigma terminal or subterminal.

Pod usually dehiscent, sometimes inflated, 1-locular or longitudinally 2-locular; seeds few to numerous, aril not present.


Photo © ANBG

Distribution and occurrence: World: 85 species, Australia & New Zealand. Australia: 84 species (endemic), all States.

Willdampia, a new monotypic genus for Sturt's Desert Pea (George, 1999b) is not accepted in this treatment.

Text by J. Thompson & T. A. James
Taxon concept:


Hairs in Swainsona. A, hair basifixed and erect; B, hair basifixed and spreading; C, hair basifixed and ± spreading; D, hair laterally attached at base; E, hair asymmetrically medifixed; F, hair symmetrically medifixed.

 Key to the species 
1Stems hairy with hairs either basifixed or laterally attached at base, or stems glabrous2
Stems hairy with hairs symmetrically, or more frequently asymmetrically, medifixed44
2Stems glabrous to sparsely hairy3
Stems moderately to densely hairy
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30
3Stipules broad (usually more than 5 mm wide), leafy, more or less triangular to ovate, often obliquely so, mostly 4–15 mm long4
Stipules narrower (usually less than 3 mm wide), mostly triangular to triangular-acuminate, mostly 1–10 mm long, occasionally to 15 mm long
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6
4Stems 1–4 mm diam.; leaves with 5–13 leaflets; styles tending to recurve in the upper part; pods narrow-elliptic to cylindrical, c. 3 mm diam., not inflatedSwainsona viridis
Stems often more than 5 mm diam., leaves with 13–19 leaflets; styles evenly incurved; pods crescent-shaped to broad-elliptic, 10–15 mm wide
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5
5Flowers 15–20 mm long, purple; style c. 9 mm long; stipules 12–more than 15 mm longSwainsona colutoides
Flowers c. 10 mm long, yellow; style c. 3 mm long; stipules 4–7 mm long
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Swainsona pyrophila
6Apex of leaflets narrow and long-tapering7
Apex of leaflets obtuse to retuse or emarginate, if acute then not long-tapering
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9
7Leaves with 1–7 leaflets, mostly 10–40 mm long, 1–5 mm wide; calyces glabrous; wings with a large obtuse extensionSwainsona campylantha
Leaves with 5–13 leaflets, mostly 10–25 mm long, 1–2 mm wide; calyces pubescent; wings not as above
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8
8Leaves with terminal leaflet distinctly longer than laterals; calyx teeth more or less equal to tube; style tip strongly curved or geniculateSwainsona parviflora
Leaves with terminal leaflet not distinctly longer than laterals; calyx teeth much shorter than tube; style tip straight to curved
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Swainsona recta
9Flowers mostly more than 10 mm long10
Flowers usually less than 10 mm long
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20
10Keel apex strongly curved upward, recurved or coiled; stipules 2–15 mm long11
Keel tip horizontal or at most a little raised or beaked; stipules 2–5 mm long
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13
11Keel tip strongly upcurved; style unbearded but with a ridge of hairs behind the styleSwainsona plagiotropis
Keel tip strongly recurved or coiled; style not as above
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12
12Stem hairs dense or sparse, c. 0.5 mm long, curved or spreading; keel usually twisted in an incomplete circle, tip blueSwainsona swainsonioides
Stem hairs sparse, minute and appressed or absent; keel spirally twisted in a complete circle, tip yellow
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Swainsona procumbens
13Calyx teeth mostly 2–4 times longer than tube; bracts 12–20 mm longSwainsona cadellii
Calyx teeth shorter than tube; bracts to 10 mm long
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14
14Stems glabrous15
Stems pubescent
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17
15Leaves usually with 13–17 leaflets, leaflets sometimes modified or absent, sparsely pubescent on lower surface; stipe 1–2 mm longSwainsona laxa
Leaves with 19–29 leaflets, not as above, mostly glabrous; stipe mostly 5–10 mm long
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16
16Pedicels minutely pubescent, to c. 5 mm long but often much shorter; leaflets 19–25, ovate to narrow-ovate, the lower 10–20 mm long, 2–3 mm wide; wings about as long as keelSwainsona queenslandica
Pedicels glabrous, usually more than 5 mm long, occasionally shorter; leaflets 21–29, narrow-obovate to elliptic, the lower 8–15 mm long, 3–5 mm wide; wings shorter than keel
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Swainsona galegifolia
17Hairs on stems spreading, often fine and crisped, c. 0.5 mm long18
Hairs on stems appressed, mostly less than 0.5 mm long
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19
18Bracts 8–10 mm long; wings shorter than keel; pods 40–50 mm long, glabrous; lower leaflets c. 15 mm long, 5–7 mm wideSwainsona bracteata
Bracts 1–2 mm long; wings scarcely or not shorter than keel; pods 25–40 mm long, glabrous or minutely pubescent; lower leaflets 10–20 mm long, 2–3 mm wide
                       Back to 17
Swainsona queenslandica
19Leaves mostly with 13–17 leaflets, leaflets sometimes modified or absent; flowers yellow, occasionally with a purple flush; style tip more or less straightSwainsona laxa
Leaves with 21–24 leaflets, not as above; flowers pink to purple; style tip strongly incurved or coiled
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Swainsona fraseri
20Leaves with 3–7 leaflets21
Leaves mostly with more than 7 leaflets (occasionally less in Swainsona similis, then keel acute)
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23
21Pods more than 15 mm long; flowers purple or yellow; style tip incurled; lateral leaflets 3–10 mm wideSwainsona luteola
Pods less than 15 mm long; flowers purple; style tip inflexed, incurved or geniculate; lateral leaflets 1–5 mm wide
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22
22Leaflets 2–15 mm long, apex obtuse to retuse; style tip straight to slightly inflexed or incurvedSwainsona oligophylla
Leaflets 10–25 mm long, apex acute; style tip geniculate
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Swainsona oroboides
23Leaves with 21–41 leaflets; leaflets broad-cuneate to more or less circular, 1–5 mm longSwainsona microphylla
Leaves with 5–25 leaflets; leaflets not as above, 1–20 mm long
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24
24Racemes 1–4-flowered; stipules 1–2 mm long25
Racemes mostly more than 4-flowered; stipules to 10 mm long
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26
25Flowers 3–5 mm long, cream or yellow, more or less tinged pink; ovary and pod pubescent; lateral leaflets obovate to narrow-obovate, 1–7 mm longSwainsona oliveri
Flowers 6–10 mm long, white to purple or dark red; ovary and pod glabrous; lateral leaflets ovate to elliptic to narrow-elliptic, 2–20 mm long
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Swainsona brachycarpa
26Keel tip obtuse; plants prostrate to ascending or semi-erect27
Keel tip acute; plants erect to spreading
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29
27Leaflets 1–4 mm wide; stems glabrous or with tubercules bearing minute hairs; pods with stipe 2–3 mm longSwainsona brachycarpa
Leaflets 3–10 mm wide; stems sparsely to densely pubescent, not tuberculate; pods with stipe less than 1 mm long
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28
28Pods broad-oblong, obovoid or globose, 5–11 mm long; calyx teeth shorter than tube; leaflets 7–25, apex emarginateSwainsona affinis
Pods elliptic to narrow-oblong, 20–35 mm long; calyx teeth usually more or less longer than tube; leaflets 3–17, apex obtuse to acute
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Swainsona luteola
29Leaflets ovate to elliptic, laterals mostly 10–15 mm long, 2–5 mm wide; stem hairs c. 0.75 mm long, spreading and twisted or crispedSwainsona extrajacens
Leaflets more or less elliptic, laterals mostly 5–10 mm long, 1–2 mm wide; stem hairs short or minute, appressed
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Swainsona similis
30Hairs on stems spreading, or antrorsely divergent or curved31
Hairs on stems mostly appressed or occasionally divergent, the ends sometimes raised
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39
31Stems densely hairy, woolly with emergent, straighter hairs; pods globose and woollySwainsona burkittii
Stem indumentum not as above; pods if globose not woolly
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32
32Hairs on stems 1–2 mm long; flowers 5–6 cm long, red or occasionally white or parti-coloured, base of standard with a conspicuous black, glossy moundSwainsona formosa
Hairs on stems mostly less than 1 mm long; flowers ± 2.5 cm long, usually purple or pink, sometimes yellow, orange or white; standard not as above
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33
33Leaves with 21–41 leaflets; leaflets broad-cuneate to more or less circular, 1–5 mm longSwainsona microphylla
Leaves with 5–25 leaflets; leaflets obovate to elliptic or narrow-lanceolate, mostly 5–15 mm long
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34
34Keel tip conspicuously twisted; hairs on stems spreading or antrorsely curvedSwainsona swainsonioides
Keel tip not as above; hairs on stems spreading or antrorsely divergent
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35
35Leaves with 5–15 leaflets; flowers 5–10 mm long, bracts 1–4 mm long36
Leaves with 15–25 leaflets; flowers 12–25 mm long, bracts 5–10 mm long
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38
36Leaflets 5–10 mm wide; keel usually greenish yellowSwainsona flavicarinata
Leaflets 1–3 mm wide; keel tip purple
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37
37Leaflets mostly opposite, the terminal somewhat longer than laterals; style with the translucent tissue not broad in the upper part; calyx hairs mostly dark brown to black.Swainsona behriana
Leaflets including terminal often irregular; style with the translucent tissue wing-like and broad in the upper part; calyx hairs dark, light or mixed.
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Swainsona reticulata
38Calyces white-woolly, teeth much shorter than tube; stipules 4–10 mm longSwainsona greyana
Calyces pubescent with dense to sparse crisped hairs, teeth shorter than to more or less equal to tube; stipules usually 2–5 mm long
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Swainsona bracteata
39Pods 20–35 mm long, distinctly tapered at apex; leaflets 3–10 mm wide; flowers purple or yellowSwainsona luteola
Pods 5–15 mm long, not distinctly tapered at apex; leaflets 1–5 mm wide; flowers purple, pink or white
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40
40Leaves with 3–7 leaflets; calyx teeth longer than tube; racemes 3–7-flowered; ovaries and pods pubescent41
Leaves with more than 10 leaflets; calyx teeth equal to or shorter than tube; racemes 3–25-flowered; ovaries and pods more or less glabrous
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42
41Leaflets 2–15 mm long, apex obtuse to retuse; style tip straight to slightly inflexed or incurvedSwainsona oligophylla
Leaflets 10–25 mm long, apex acute; style tip geniculate
                       Back to 40
Swainsona oroboides
42Leaves with 21–41 leaflets; leaflets broad-cuneate to more or less circular, 1–5 mm long; style tip truncateSwainsona microphylla
Leaves with 7–25 leaflets; leaflets oblong, narrow-obovate or elliptic, 2–15 mm long; style tip geniculate or obliquely narrowed
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43
43Leaflets to 3 mm wide; flowers 4–7 mm long; style tip geniculateSwainsona monticola
Leaflets 3–8 mm wide; flowers 6–10 mm long; style tip obliquely narrowed
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Swainsona affinis
44Flowers usually orange-red or brown, rarely yellow or purple; stipules broad, with broad lateral teethSwainsona stipularis
Flowers purple or occasionally pink; stipules triangular to acuminate-triangular, usually without obvious teeth
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45
45Leaflets with a circular, yellowish gland at apexSwainsona adenophylla
Leaflets without an apical gland
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46
46Stem hairs mostly less than or equal to 0.5 mm long47
Hairs on stems greater than 0.5 mm long
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49
47Leaflets obovate, mostly 2–15 mm long; calyx teeth long-attenuate, 3–4 times as long as tubeSwainsona oligophylla
Leaflets linear, linear-lanceolate to elliptic, mostly 5–30 mm long; calyx teeth equal to or shorter than tube
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48
48Flowers not twisted at the base of the calyx; apex of leaflets acute to sinuate or emarginate; racemes 3–20-floweredSwainsona purpurea
Flowers twisted at the base of the calyx; apex of leaflets mostly narrow-acute; racemes 3–11-flowered
                       Back to 47
Swainsona murrayana
49Flowers 10–15 mm long, keel conspicuously longer than wings; hairs on stems mostly 1–1.5 mm longSwainsona phacoides
Flowers 7–11 mm long, keel not as above; hairs on stems mostly 0.5–1 mm long
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50
50Prostrate or low-growing, to c. 10 cm high; style tip truncate or rounded and geniculate; pods obovate to narrow-obovate, 10–17 mm longSwainsona sericea
Erect or ascending, to 50 cm high; style tip rounded and minutely incurved; pods mostly elliptic, 15–25 mm long
                       Back to 49
Swainsona fissimontana

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