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Facts About the Kowhai Tree

By Melody Lee ; Updated September 21, 2017

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.

Fun Fact

“Kowhai” is the Maori word for “yellow”. The tree was so named for its bright yellow flowers.



About the Author


Melody Lee holds a degree in landscape design, is a Florida Master Gardener, and has more than 30 years of gardening experience. She currently works as a writer and copy editor. Her previous jobs include reporter, photographer and editor for a weekly newspaper.