Swainsona formosum

Terrence Cole

Westlake, Australia

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Artist's Description

Sturts’s Desert Pea, this little beauty is a native to the dry outback of Australia. Sturt’s Desert Pea, Swainsona formosa, was adopted as the floral emblem of South Australia on 23 November 1961, using the name Clianthus formosus.

The Legend..

An Aboriginal tribe where camped in the desert.
A young Aboriginal woman watched as her man went out hunting.
She waited for his return but he was gone a long time.
The rest of the tribe decided they would move camp, the young woman refused to go stating she would wait for her man to return. They would then follow and rejoin the tribe.

As the tribe left they turned and could see in the distance, the young woman dressed in a red cloak, still sitting patiently waiting for her man.
Neither the young woman, nor her man were ever seen again.
However the next year as the tribe wandered, they came again on the campsite where they had left the young woman, and found exactly where they had left her a beautiful red flower with a black boss in her place.

Captain Charles Sturt (1795-1869) noted the occurrence of Swainsona formosa in 1844 while exploring between Adelaide and central Australia, and the common name, Sturt’s Desert Pea, commemorates a notable explorer of inland Australia, as well as indicating the plant’s habitat and family. Sturt’s journal, Narrative of an Expedition into Central Australia, refers several times to the beauty of the desert pea in flower and the harsh nature of its habitat, and notes that beyond the Darling River:

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australian flowers native plants red

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