AGM 2019

Date posted: 09-Sep-2019

Our Annual General Meeting was held at 7:30 pm on Monday 23rd September at the F..

More plaudits for Tiritiri Matangi

Date posted: 15-Jul-2019

Recognition of the wonderful experience visitors have when visiting the Island h..

Results of the 2019 Photo Competition

Date posted: 15-Jul-2019

The results of this year's competition have now been decided. Click here (/2019-photo-co..

Lighthouse Open Day

Date posted: 30-Apr-2019

Our historic lighthouse, signal station and diaphonic foghorn will all be on dis..

We need a new Treasurer

Date posted: 08-Apr-2019

The Supporters need a new treasurer to take over in September when Kevin Vaughan..

2019 Concert

Date posted: 05-Feb-2019

OrigiNZ, the tartan taonga are returning for the 2019 concert. Click..

Tiri's three unique foghorns

Date posted: 01-Feb-2019

Our next social event will take place on Monday 18th March when Carl Hayson and ..

Young Conservation Superstars win awards!

Date posted: 27-Jan-2019

Gabriel Barbosa and teacher Kate Asher, a team leader who co..

Entries for the 2019 photo competition

Date posted: 19-Jan-2019

We are now taking entries for the 2019 photographic competition. You can enter u..

Hihi volunteer needed

Date posted: 18-Oct-2018

Would you like to volunteer with the Island's hihi team and learn from them how ..


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