New monitoring reports published

Date posted: 19-Jul-2018

Reports on monitoring studies carried out over the past year have now been poste..

2018 Concert coming up soon

Date posted: 15-Feb-2018

Our 2018 concert will feature an afternoon of light classics and jazz courtesy of the Auckland Ph..

Wetapunga talk coming soon

Date posted: 05-Feb-2018

For the Social on 19 March the speaker will be Ben Goodwin of Auckland Zoo, who will talk about t..

Rat caught and now takahe released from pens

Date posted: 28-Jan-2018

Thankfully DOC staff Andre de Graaf and Polly Hall and their assistants have trapped the rat whic..

Your Christmas Shopping for a Song

Date posted: 04-Dec-2017

Aka - The Grand Christmas Shopping Expedition to Tiritiri Matangi Island Shop Dreading..

2018 Photo Comp opens for entries

Date posted: 27-Nov-2017

The 2018 Photo Competition is now open for entries. Click here (/2018-photo-competition-tiritiri-mat..

New reports on ruru nesting and Island conservation

Date posted: 02-Oct-2017

Two new reports have been added to the website. The first gives details of a summer students..

2018 calendars now available

Date posted: 27-Sep-2017

Our latest calendar, beautifully illustrated with images taken on the Island, is now available fo..

Guided walks for photographers

Date posted: 21-Jun-2017

For a wonderful day of wildlife photography please join us on Tiritiri Matangi Island for a Ph..

Ferry discounts for Supporters

Date posted: 18-May-2017

Tiritiri Matangi Island, the perfect winter's day trip. The birds are at their best, warm up w..


Botanical name: Sophora chathamica
Maori name: Kowhai
Common name:  Coastal kowhai
Height: Up to 20 metres

Kowhai flowers

New Zealand has 8 species of the genus Sophora. They are all endemic, have similarly structured yellow tubular flowers and are all called kowhai. The individual species are differentiated by their leaf and pod structure, growth pattern and their choice of habitat. 

On Tiritiri Matangi we have coastal kowhai (Sophora chathamica). It is mainly found in western coastal areas of the northern North Island and also areas around Wellington and on the Chatham Islands. It is thought to have originally been indigenous only to the northern half of the North Island but was spread further south by Waikato and Taranaki Maori as a deliberate planting for medicinal and ornamental purposes. 

Coastal kowhai begins flowering in early August. Copious nectar is produced, attracting tui and bellbirds. Some Maori considered that the appearance of the first kowhai flowers marked the time to plant kumara. Pods are formed during September and October, often remaining on the trees for up to a year. The leaves on coastal kowhai can be up to 15cm long and are made up of crowded and overlapping leaflets with as many as 55 on some examples. Tender new leaf growth and flowers are a food source relished by kereru. 

Kowhai bark was used by Maori to make poultices for wounds and sores. Kowhai timber is very durable; early settlers used it for making tools and as a building material. 

Sophora is a large genus of over 45 species, found in subtropical and temperate regions of North and South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. They belong in the legume family, Fabaceae. Sophora is from the Arabic word sufayra, the name for a leguminous tree. Chathamica means 'from the Chathams'; coastal kowhai was first described from material collected from the Chatham Islands. Kowhai means yellow.

Kowhai seed pods and foliage

Photography by Neil Davies