Scientific Name:
Sophora microphylla Aiton (1789)
  • Edwardsia microphylla (Aiton) Salisb. (1808)
  • Edwardsia grandiflora var. microphylla (Aiton) Hook.f., Bot. Antarct. Voy. II. (Fl. Nov.-Zel.) Part I, 52 (1852)
  • Sophora tetraptera var. microphylla (Aiton) Hook.f., Handb. New Zealand Fl. 53 (1864)
Vernacular Name(s):
Kōwhai; Kōwhai maori; small-leaved kowhai; weeping kowhai

Moderate to large tree up to 25 m high, with 1 main trunk or several prominent main branches; branches weeping, spreading and ascending. Divaricating and/or strongly flexuose juvenile branchlets present; branchlets often strongly interlaced, yellow-brown to orange-brown, glabrous to sparsely pubescent, becoming increasingly pubescent during the transition to adult branchlets; hairs appressed, straight. Seedlings and juveniles sparsely to moderately leafy, leaves with increasing numbers of leaflets. Leaflets on juveniles 3.0-5.8 × 2.3-4.9 mm, broadly obovate to orbicular, ± glabrous to sparsely pubescent, distant, not crowded or overlapping. Leaves on adults up to 15 cm long, imparipinnate, petioles and rachides channelled above, leaflets 30-50. Leaflets on adults 4.5-12.5 × 2.3-5.7 mm, elliptic, broadly elliptic, obovate to ovate, sometimes ± orbicular, distal and proximal leaflets usually similar in size, not crowded or overlapping, distant, adaxial and abaxial surfaces ± planar, adaxial surface light green to green, abaxial surface light green; apices retuse to rounded; bases cuneate to obtuse; petiolules 0.4-1.1 mm long, distinct; petioles, rachides, petiolules, and leaflets sparsely to moderately pubescent, hairs 0.2-1.0 mm long, appressed, straight. Inflorescences racemose, withup to 7 flowers; peduncle and rachis 10-25 mm long; pedicels up to 16 mm long, each subtended by a bract; bracts 1.8-3.4 mm long; peduncles, rachides, pedicels, bracts, and calyces moderately to densely pubescent, hairs brown to yellow-brown, usually appressed but sometimes weakly spreading. Calyx 5-11 × 7-10 mm, cupulate, rim shallowly lobed, with deeper notch adjacent to standard. Corolla yellow; keel petal blade 18-50 × 7-13 mm, wing petal blade 18-50 × 6-11 mm, standard petal blade 20-35 × 14-25 mm; petals with distinct claws, 4.0-8.0 mm long. Stipe 7-10 mm long, glabrous to moderately pubescent. Ovary 8-17 mm long, densely pubescent; hairs up to 0.5 mm long, off- white to light brown, appressed to spreading, straight. Style 10- 15 mm long, glabrous to sparsely pubescent. Stigma glabrous or fringed with few short hairs. Filaments 20-35 mm long. Anthers 2.0-2.5 × 1.0-1.3 mm. Fruit 50-200 mm long, 4-winged, brown, sparsely to moderately pubescent, with up to 12 seeds. Seeds 5.5-8.5 × 4.0-5.5 mm, oblong, elliptic to ± orbicular, yellow to light yellow-brown. FL (May-)Aug-Oct; FT Oct-May.

[Reproduced from Heenan et al. (2001, New Zealand J. Bot. 39: 17–53) with permission from The Royal Society of New Zealand.]

Indigenous (Endemic)
de Lange, P.J.; Rolfe, J.R.; Barkla J.W.; Courtney, S.P.; Champion, P.D.; Perrie, L.R.; Beadel, S.N.; Ford, K.A.; Breitwieser, I.; Schönberger, I.; Hindmarsh-Walls, R.; Heenan, P.B.; Ladley, K. 2018: Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2017. New Zealand Threat Classification Series No. 22. [Not Threatened]
de Lange, P.J.; Rolfe, J.R.; Champion, P.D.; Courtney, S.P.; Heenan, P.B.; Barkla, J.W.; Cameron, E.K.; Norton, D.A.; Hitchmough, R.A. 2013: Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012. New Zealand Threat Classification Series 3. Department of Conservation, Wellington. [Not Threatened]
Heenan, P.B.; de Lange, P.J.; Wilton, A.D. 2001: Sophora (Fabaceae) in New Zealand: taxonomy, distribution, and biogeography. New Zealand Journal of Botany 39(1): 17–53.
Hooker, J.D. 1853: The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of H.M. Discovery Ships Erebus and Terror in the Years 1839–1843, under the command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross. II. Flora Novae-Zelandiae. Part I. Flowering plants. Lovell Reeve, London.
Hooker, J.D. 1864: Handbook of the New Zealand Flora: a systematic description of the native plants of New Zealand and the Chatham, Kermadec's, Lord Auckland's, Campbell's and Macquarie's Islands. Part I. Reeve, London.
Stewart, J. 1971: Plants in New Zealand Poisonous to Man. New Zealand Department of Health, Wellington.