Plants of
South Australia
Swainsona formosa
Leguminosae
Sturts desert-pea
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Botanical art

Kath Alcock painting: 1.

Etymology

Swainsona named after Isaac Swainson (1746-1812, an English scientist and horticulturalist who had a private botanic garden near London. Formosa is Latin for beautiful.

Distribution and status

Found scattered across the mid and upper part of South Australia. Also found in Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. Native. Common in South Australia. Common in other states.
Herbarium regions: North Western, Lake Eyre, Nullarbor, Gairdner-Torrens, Flinders Ranges, Eastern, Eyre Peninsula, Northern Lofty
NRM regions: Alinytjara Wilurara, Northern and Yorke, South Australian Arid Lands
AVH map: SA distribution map (external link)

Plant description

Prostrate annual or bi-annual herb, spreading to 2m or more with hairy stems and leaves making the plant appear grey-green. Flowers are bright red and large with a black dot (boss) in the centre, on an erect stem. Fruits are large hairy grey pods with numerous seeds inside. Seeds are small brown, some with black spots, reniform seeds to 5mm long with a wrinkled surface. Seed embryo type is bent.

Seed collection and propagation

Collect seeds between September and February. Collect mature pods. Mature pods can be found lying on the ground next to the plant containing hard seeds. Place the pods in a tray and leave to dry for a week. When dried the pods can become hard and difficult to open. Use a rubber bung to rub the pods or break the pods open with your fingers to dislodge the seeds. Use a sieve to separate the unwanted material. Store the seeds with a desiccant such as dried silica beads or dry rice, in an air tight container in a cool and dry place. From two collections, the seed viability were high, ranging from 90% to 100%. This species has physical dormancy that need to be overcome for the seed to germinate (e.g. nicking or softening the seed coat).

Seeds stored:
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LocationNo. of seeds
(weight grams)
Number
of plants
Date
collected
Collection number
Collection location
Date
stored
% ViabilityStorage
temperature
BGA 
MSB
15,500 (100 g)
8,500 (55.59 g)
100+3-Nov-2009DJD1584
Eyre Peninsula
1-Jun-201090%-18°C
BGA3,000 (25.69 g)1223-Nov-2010KHB531
Flinders Ranges
1-Jan-2012100%-18°C
Location: BGA — the seeds are stored at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, MSB — the seeds are stored at the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew, England.
Number of plants: This is the number of plants from which the seeds were collected.
Collection location: The Herbarium of South Australia's region name.
% Viability: Percentage of filled healthy seeds determined by a cut test or x-ray.
Germination table:
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