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Kowhai are small and woody legume trees

Images of Kowhai at

Kowhai are small, woody legume trees that belong to the genus Sophora.

Overview of Kowhai

• It is indigenous to New Zealand.
• About eight species are present.
• Sophora microphylla and S. tetraptera are probably most recognized as large trees.
• Their natural habitat is beside streams.
• They are found on the perimeters of forest, in lowland or montane open areas.
• Kowhai trees grow through the entire country.
• They are also a standard feature in New Zealand gardens.
• The name Kowhai comes from the Maori word for yellow.
• The blooms of the Kowhai are widely deemed being New Zealand’s national flower.

The 8 species of the Kowhai are:
– Sophora chathamica, Coastal k?whai
– Sophora fulvida
– Sophora godleyi, Godley’s k?whai
-Sophora longicarinata, Limestone k?whai
– Sophora microphylla, Small-leaved k?whai
– Sophora molloyi, Cook Strait k?whai
– Sophora prostrata, Prostrate k?whai
– Sophora tetraptera, Large-leaved k?whai

• Most types of kowhai grow to a number exceeding 8 m high.
• They have absolutely fairly smooth bark with small leaves.
• S. microphylla has smaller leaves.
• They are 5–7 mm long by 3–4 mm wide.
• The flowers are 2.5-3.5 cm long.
• Many varieties of k?whai are semi-deciduous.
• They lose the vast majority of their leaves just after flowering in October or November.
• They do quickly to produce new leaves.
• Flowering of k?whai is staggered from July by way of November.
• The wood of k?whai is dense and strong.
• It was used in for tools and machinery.
• All parts on the kowhai are poisonous to humans.
• Traditionally, the M?ori used the flexible branches being a construction material inside their houses and snare birds.
• The k?whai flowers were a source of yellow dye.
• Maori would use the kowhai tree as medicine.
• The bark was heated in the calabash with hot stones.
• It was in a poultice to treat wounds.
• It was rubbed on a sore back.
• It was made into an infusion to deal with bruising or muscular pains.

Growing/Caring conditions

• Grow the kowhai tree in an area that receives full sun throughout the day.
• Water the kowhai tree and keep the soil moist.
• Do this for the initial couple of years.
• It will tolerate short periods of drought.
• Providing it with an inch of water a week is ideal.
• Spread a 3-inch layer of mulch.
• Spread 6 inches of mulch from the trunk.
• Spread completely under the canopy.
• Mulch helps retain moisture within the soil.
• Fertilize the kowhai tree in the spring only.
• Work with a balanced fertilizer.
• A 10-10-10 fertilizer that may be sprinkled about the soil beneath the canopy would be better.
• Kowhai is a legume and thus it fixes nitrogen from the soil.
• It should not require supplemental fertilizer.
• Prune the kowhai tree in the spring.
• This is to take out dead and weak branches.
• Every part in the kowhai tree is poisonous if ingested.

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