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Variable Bossiaea

Common name:              

Variable Bossiaea

Botanical name:               

Bossaiea heterophilla




This flower is named after Boissieu de la Martinère, a botanist on the La Perouse expedition, which called at Botany Bay just after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1770 and left six weeks later, never to be seen again: heterophylla, from the Greek, hetero – different and phyllo – leaf.

The variable bossiaea is a beautiful wildflower, that is covered in flowers for much of the year, depending on conditions. It is an essential part of thew Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub providing habitat for birds and insects across the seasons.

It’s distribution in the eastern suburbs is limited and contracting mainly because of habitat destruction, but also because it is what is termed a 'pyrophillic', or fire loving, species. Its seeds require fire to germinate and given the lack of fire in our urban reserves bossaieas struggle to recruit new seedlings.

At Cenntennial Parklands, our team are attempting to propagate this beautiful species in the parkland's nursery, using smoke water to replicate the conditions of a bushfire. Hopefully they'll be able to replant seedlings gathered from our existing population.


Occurs on the coast and nearby tablelands south from Bundaberg in Queensland, through New South Wales to. It also occurs in two small populations in northern Tasmania.


Bossiaea is a small spreading shrub growing up to 1 metre in height that grows in coastal sandy heathland and woodland (mostly sandy soils). Young branches are usually flattened and hairless. Leaves grow to 20 mm x 10 mm and are alternate and variable in shape from linear to ovate in two rows on opposite sides.

Flowers which are 12 mm across are typically pea-shaped. The standard is broad, yellow with red markings and tinged red on the back; the keel is reddish and longer than the wings. Flowering can be from March to May and September to October. Fruits are flattened pods with thickened edges and contain 4 to 8 small black seeds.


Fruits may be enjoyed fresh or cooked in sweet or savoury dishes, while the plant root can be pounded and roasted for eating. Blueberry Lily was traditionally used as a tea ingredient in Aboriginal medicine — both root and leaf were used to remedy colds and headaches, respectively.

A word of caution: not every Dianella species produces berries that are safe for human consumption.

Where to see Variable Bossiaea in Centennial Parklands

Queens Park near the Banksia Scrub (endangered).