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Kōwhai

Distinctive yellow flowers signal the end of winter and are a favourite of our native birds.

Kōwhai
Sophora tetraptera
Can grow as high as
10m
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More about this tree

  • Kōwhai means yellow, and the tree is named for its distinctive yellow flower in early spring. 
  • There are a number of varieties of kōwhai. Most are deciduous, and lose their small rounded leaves in winter.
  • It was an important medicinal plant for Māori, who used bark teas to heal skin wounds, sprains and broken bones.
  • However, kōwhai is generally considered poisonous to humans as it contains the toxin cytisine.
  • Birds love the nectar! Tūī will fly great distances in search of it, and defend it aggressively. 
  • The timber is dense and durable and was used by Māori and European settlers for tools, machinery, wood-splitting wedges, houses, cabinets, fencing and ship-building. The more flexible branches were used as bird snares.  
  • The kōwhai is said to symbolise personal growth, and helps people to move on from the past with a renewed sense of adventure.
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