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NZ Plants

Sophora microphylla - kowhai, small-leaved kowhai

Pea family: Fabaceae

Sophora microphylla is a tree usually with a single trunk that bears weeping and spreading branches. The fern-like leaves are divided into 30-50 pairs of hair-covered leaflets arranged along a central midrib. Leaflets are light green to green, distant from one another and not overlapping. It is the only Sophora species with a distinct juvenile phase which is a divaricating shrub with numerous interlaced branches.
An endemic species found throughout New Zealand, but scarce north of Auckland. All parts of this plant are poisonous, especially the seeds.

Vegetative characteristics

Reproductive characteristics

Plant form: tree up to 25 m; juveniles with interlaced branches (divaricating)

Arrangement of parts: asymmetric


Flower size: 5-10 mm  diam x 40 mm long

Leaf form: divided into 30-50 pair of elliptic to ovate leaflets

Sepals:  5

Leaf size: up to 15 cm with 2-6 mm long leaflets

Petals: 5, yellow

Leaf arrangement: singly along stem

Sexuality: bisexual

Leaf attachment:

Stamens: 10

Leaf margin: smooth

Ovary: above petals

Leaf surface: hairs

Fruit: dry