Background and aims: The South African herbaceous legume species Lessertia capitata, L. diffusa, L. excisa L. incana and L. herbacea were introduced to Australia to assess plant establishment and survival, as well as the saprophytic ability of their root nodule bacteria (RNB). Methods: Five Lessertia spp., were inoculated with selected RNB strains and were sown in five different agroclimatic areas of the Western Australian wheat-belt during 2007 and 2008. Plant population and summer survival were evaluated in situ. Soil samples and nodules from host plants were also taken from each site. The re-isolated rhizobia were RPO1-PCR fingerprinted and their partial dnaK and nodA genes were sequenced to confirm their identity. Results: Plants achieved only poor establishment followed by weak summer survival. More than 83 % of the rhizobia re-isolated from Lessertia did not correlate with the original inoculants' fingerprints, and were identified as Rhizobium leguminosarum. The nodA sequences of the naturalised strains were also clustered with R. leguminosarum sequences, thus eliminating the likelihood of lateral gene transference from Mesorhizobium and suggesting a competition problem with indigenous rhizobia. Conclusion: The stressful soil conditions and high numbers of resident R. leguminosarum strains in Western Australian soils, and their ability to rapidly nodulate Lessertia spp. but not fix nitrogen are likely to preclude the adoption of Lessertia as an agricultural legume in this region. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.