Kowhai seeds

Kowhai seeds
Botanical name   Sophora tetraptera
Details   Large yellow flowers from September to November loved by bellbird and tui. Seed requires scarification before sowing. Mechanical scarification works best for this species. Reasonable results can also be achieved with hot water treatment.
Drought tolerance  
Nitrogen fixer  
Tags     evergreen  flowers  N fixer  native  yellow 
Price   $3.90  20 seeds
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The Kowhai tree (Sophora species) is a native tree found in New Zealand and is highly regarded for its unique qualities and various uses. Here are some of the uses and qualities of the Kowhai tree:
  1. Ornamental Plant: The Kowhai tree is a popular choice for landscaping and ornamental planting due to its stunning display of bright yellow flowers. When in bloom, the tree attracts birds and insects, adding life and colour to gardens and parks.
  2. Ecological Importance: Kowhai trees are ecologically significant in New Zealand as they provide habitat and food for native birds, particularly the tui and the bellbird. The tubular flowers are rich in nectar, making them an essential food source for these avian species.
  3. Traditional and Cultural Uses: In Māori culture, the Kowhai tree holds significant value. Its flowers are used to make a sweet beverage, and the wood is used for carvings, tools, and musical instruments like the taonga puoro (traditional Māori musical instruments).
  4. Medicine: Some parts of the Kowhai tree, such as the bark and leaves, have been used in traditional Māori medicine for their alleged anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. However, it's essential to note that the medicinal uses of plants should always be approached with caution and expert guidance.
  5. Timber: While not as widely used for timber as some other native trees, Kowhai wood is dense and durable, making it suitable for certain small-scale construction and woodworking projects.
  6. Nitrogen Fixing: Like many leguminous plants, Kowhai trees have the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil through their symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This process enriches the soil and benefits surrounding plants.
  7. Drought Tolerance: Kowhai trees are relatively drought-tolerant once established, making them suitable for regions with intermittent rainfall or drier conditions.
  8. Erosion Control: The Kowhai's root system helps stabilize soil and prevent erosion, making it beneficial for planting in areas prone to erosion.
  9. Biodiversity Conservation: The Kowhai tree is an important component of New Zealand's native ecosystem. By planting and conserving Kowhai trees, we can contribute to the preservation of native biodiversity and support native bird populations.
  10. Bee Forage: The Kowhai flowers also attract bees, providing an important nectar source for these pollinators.
It's worth noting that different species of Kowhai may have slightly different qualities and uses, but overall, these trees play a crucial role in New Zealand's ecology and cultural heritage. As with any native plant, responsible cultivation and conservation efforts are essential to ensure their continued existence and ecological benefits.

Scarification - Preparing hard tree seeds for planting

Many trees have seeds with extremely hard coatings. This allows them to remain viable for a long time, waiting for a trigger such as fire or abrasion due to erosion to activate the growing stage. These seeds require some form of scarification to encourage germination.

This is typical of several leguminous, pod bearing tree species such as tagasaste, locust, laburnum, carob etc.

There are several ways to perform the scarification prior to planting the seeds.


Botanical name   Sophora tetraptera
Details   Small leguminous tree with attractive fern-like foliage. Tangled juvenile stage leads to a stately adult tree.
Flowers profusely from September - November. Nectar is very attractive to birds, but can be toxic to honey bees.
Semi-deciduous. Hardy to cold and wind.
New Zealand native
Flowers   Yellow
Diameter   3.00
Height (m)   8
Drought tolerance  
Nitrogen fixer  
Shade / Sun   Full sun - part shade
Wind tolerance   High