Kowhai trees (Sophora species) are native to New Zealand, but can be grown in temperate climates around the world. They are easy to grow from either saplings or seeds.
Kowhai trees have small, feathery grayish-green leaves and smooth bark. The showy yellow flowers appear in spring and are followed by pods containing 6 or more yellow hard seeds.
Kowhai trees grow in open areas near waterways. They need full sun and frequent irrigation. They are suitable for coastal and southern areas of the United States, where temperatures are relatively constant in summer and winter.
The Maori in New Zealand use the wood of Kowhai trees to make paddles, adzes and other tools. They use an infusion of the bark to treat skin infections and wounds, as well as sore throats and colds.
The seeds and bark of Kowhai trees are poisonous. Consult a licensed medical practitioner before ingesting or using any part of the Kowhai tree or other plants for medicinal reasons.
“Kowhai” is the Maori word for “yellow”. The tree was so named for its bright yellow flowers.