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..

More kiwi for the Island

Date posted: 04-Apr-2017

In 1993 and 1995, sixteen little spotted kiwi were released on Tiritiri Matangi Island. The ma..

2017 Photo Competition

Date posted: 22-Mar-2017

It is that time of year again when we are looking for entries for our photo competition (and phot..

The 2017 concert

Date posted: 05-Feb-2017

This year's concert promises to be another wonderful and unique experience. Click here (/concert-..

Shorebird Film Festival at Devonport

Date posted: 26-Oct-2016

Click here (/miscellaneous documents/DevWaderFilms.jpg) for details of a forthcoming film festival c..

Extra Dawn Chorus Trip

Date posted: 20-Oct-2016

Stop Press: Extra Dawn Chorus trip now scheduled for Thursday 27th October 2016. ..

2016 AGM

Date posted: 06-Sep-2016

The 2016 AGM was held at the Kohia Centre at 7:30 pm on Monday 19th September. Click here (/..

Kowhai

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
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