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Kowhai, Pelú

Sophora microphylla

Family: Papilionaceae (pa-pil-ee-uh-NAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Sophora (SOF-or-uh) (Info)
Species: microphylla (my-kro-FIL-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Sophora cassioides



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)


10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)


USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade


Seed is poisonous if ingested

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:

Late Winter/Early Spring




Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

Scarify seed before sowing

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Fountain Valley, California

Richmond, California

San Leandro, California

Moyock, North Carolina

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jan 3, 2009, albey30 from Christchurch,
New Zealand (Zone 9a) wrote:

This is possibly our hardiest sophora species, but there is nowhere in New Zealand that it grows naturally in temps down to ( -14 degrees centigrade as Octofad describes ) I would have never thought it could survive temps that low ? Its good to hear comments from people who are always pushing the boundaries of plant hardiness levels when they are taken out of their natural environment and put into a totally different climate, and then cross you fingers and see what happens.


On Apr 5, 2005, Ursula from Santiago,
Chile (Zone 9b) wrote:

This tree is native as well in Chile as in New Zealand.

It will always be found associated to water in the wild. In its natural habitat it reaches up to 10 mt height - a very fast growing tree, reaching 1 m the first year and 2 or 3 m on the fifth. It starts blooming between the 4th and 5th year. Loves partial shade and tolerates well full shade. The long lasting flowers attract hummingbirds, other birds and insects.

This tree can be propagated via cuttings (with root-hormones in cold sand bed during late spring/mid summer) or from seeds.

Propagation form seeds: stratified sowing during Autumn in a mix of equal parts of compost, acid soil and river sand. Plantils can be picked once they have developed two true leaves, to plant in individua... read more


On Feb 24, 2003, octofad wrote:

Flowers of kowhai provide nectar for native New Zealand birds such as Tui. I brought seed back from New Zealand which I planted without scarifying - six months later they had done nothing so I dug them up and made a small cut through the cuticle halfway along the seed, replanted them, and within ten days two had germinated and are doing very well. Seedlings and young plants branch heavily initially before maturing into a tree with a main trunk. Another plant, which I purchased in Autumn 2002, has survived outside all winter in temperatures of down to -14 degrees centigrade or possibly lower, although it has lost most of its leaves.


On Sep 18, 2002, stace wrote:

The national tree in New Zealand. Semi-evergreen; leaves falling in spring before the flower