Sophora microphylla

Sophora microphylla – Kōwhai

Racemes of bright yellow flowers cover this plant in spring.



This grows to be a small, spreading, multi-stemmed tree, up to 8M tall with an open growth habit. The leaves cling on through winter, only to be replaced in the spring. So the tree is pretty much bare of leaves when it is in flower. As a young plant grown from seed S. microphylla has a different form, a dense shrub, that can persist for many years, and it can take ten years to flower


This is the national flower of New Zealand. It is scarce in Northland and the East of the North Island, leading to sometimes be called the South Island Kōwhai. Forest lore has it that when the Kōwhai bloom it is time to plant Kumara.

Soil / Aspect:

S. microphylla needs plenty of sun. It does not need the acidic soils in Karin’s Garden but seems to thrive here. It has nitrogen fixing bacteria in root nodules and thrives on poor soils.


Because of the persistence of the juvenile form you really do not want to be growing this plant from seed. It is a trouble free plant and the most you will do is clear away the fallen leaves in spring. It provides excellent light shade over other plants or decking.