A sure sign that spring is on its way, Kowhai can flower from late winter to late spring, but September is the month where most Kowhai trees will burst into flower. Kowhai are identifiable by their bright yellow beak shaped blooms hanging from untidy branches that bear small green leaves throughout the year. Another occupant of Kowhai is usually the Tui bird that rely heavily on the tree as a food source and often nest close to a prolific tree. Not all Kowhai take on tree form, as the early flowering Sophora molloyi ‘Dragons Gold’ can become a large shrub.
Kowhai can look fairly similar, but there are several varieties. The main two are the north island Kowhai (Sophora tetraptera) and the south island Kowhai (Sophora microphylla), the latter having a smaller leafed twiggy appearance. The most impressive specimens of Kowhai are to be found in warmer climes by lakes and cliffs, here you will experience the most blooms. However Kowhai will be at home in many places, tolerating high sun, wind exposure and poor soil. Younger plants may succumb to heavy frosts but once established Kowhai are frost hardy.
Kowhai will fit into any home be it a large tree or the low growing Sophora prostrata. There is no better way to attract native birds into the garden than planting native flowering plants.