Searching for Swainsona

Finding and protecting populations of the endangered Small Purple-pea for Swainsona

Searching for Swainsona’ is a project designed to further our knowledge of the Small Purple-pea (Swainsona recta) in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales.

The project aims to engage the community, including the local indigenous community, and increase their understanding and involvement in Small Purple-pea conservation as well as engaging them in the search for new populations of this species.

Detailed habitat mapping and modelling of potential habitat for Small Purple-pea will help focus searches in high priority areas and will allow targeted engagement with landowners to conserve the species and its habitat. A monitoring program will be established at the four currently known sites (Mudgee Common, Flirtation Hill Mudgee, Lue Road Mudgee, Mandurama railway line easement) to assist in determining the trajectory of the species at these sites.

At known and new sites, weed management and fencing to restrict access will be carried out to reduce the threats to the species and the box gum woodland where it occurs.

The Small Purple-pea

Small Purple-pea is a small perennial herb, which, when flowering, can grow to 30 cm tall. The leaves are almost hairless and 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.

The Small Purple-pea flowers between late September and early December, with each plant bearing one or more sprays of purple flowers. Plants are easiest to see and identify during flowering and can be confused with a range of similar species, such as the vulnerable Silky Swainson-pea (Swainsona sericea) or the Notched Swainson-pea (Swainsona monticola).

Small purple-pea Small purple-pea

We have developed a guide to help you identify the Small Purple-pea from other similar species.

For more information on the Small Purple-pea, its distribution and habitat, please visit the Office of Environment and Heritage webpage

Watch this short video on how to identify the Small Purple-pea and distinguish it from similar looking plants.

What are we doing to care for the Small Purple-pea?

The Small Purple-pea is currently known to occur at four sites in the Central Tablelands region. These sites are on public land and together with the land managers, CTLLS is addressing the threats to these populations, such as weed invasion and grazing by livestock.

It is also very important to raise awareness about this plant to help protect it from accidental trampling by visitors to its habitat.

We are hopeful to locate more populations of the Small Purple-pea in the Central Tablelands and are calling on everyone with an interest in plants to join us in ‘Searching for Swainsona’!

Click here for your search guide.

How can I be involved?

Join the Purple Pea Patrol!

To help us locate more populations of this pretty plant, we are calling on all citizen scientists to keep an eye on our region’s road sides and ungrazed back paddocks to see if you can spot a purple pea.  

We’ve created project that can be found on iNaturalist. This platform allows us to see where you found the plant, and from the photos that you can add to your sighting, we can identify which species the pea may be. 

Alternatively, you can send your photos to Vivien Howard via text - 0439 387 603 or via

Other ways you can be involved:

  • During the flowering season (September/October), come along to one of our Small Purple-pea identification workshops to learn more about the plant, its threats and how you can assist in the recovery of the species.
  • Volunteer at one of our regional surveys this spring.
  • Nominate to become a 'Swainsona Champion' and help us search for new populations of this precious plant. No skills necessary!
  • Contact us with any possible finds of the Small Purple-pea – a photo of the leaves and flowers, as well as a location of where it was found will assist us in identification!

For more information, please contact Vivien Howard on 0439 387 603 or via

This project is supported by Central Tablelands Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Program and delivered in collaboration with Central West Local Land Services and a range of project partners.

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