Sophora fulvida


Sophora: after the Arabic name for a similar tree
fulvida: yellow

Common Name(s)


Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Gradual Decline


2012 - RR


Sophora fulvida (Allan) Heenan et de Lange



Brief Description

A kowhai tree bearing leaves to 140mm long that have equal-sized small yellowish-hairy leaflets 1.8-7.5 long and with bunches of drooping yellow flowers and dry ridged and knobbly seed pods 60-190mm long containing hard yellow seeds. Juvenile and adults similar. Occurring north of Raglan.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


Sophora microphylla var. fulvida Allan; Sophora microphylla subp. microphylla var. fulvida (Allan) Yakovlev


Endemic to New Zealand, occurring in Northland, Auckland and the Waikato. The southern limit occurs at Mt Karioi on the south side of Raglan Harbour.


Open or disturbed sites, on base-rich volcanic rock, rubble and outcrops, amongst mixed podocarp-hardwood forest.


A small kowhai tree to 10 m tall. It has many hairy, small, crowded, yellow-green or grey leaflets. Young branches are also hairy, and juvenile plants do not divaricate. Leaves on adults are up to 140 mm long and bear 60-90, roughly elliptical leaflets, each 1.8 to 7.5 by 1.2 to 4.5 mm. The larger juvenile leaves are almost devoid of hairs, also elliptical in shape and range in size from 2 to 3 by 4 to 6 mm. Flowers are yellow.

Similar Taxa

Sophora microphylla, S. chathamica, S. godleyi and S. tetraptera could be confused with S. fulvida. These all tend to have fewer leaflets on each leaf, and leaflets which are often larger, broader, crowded and sometimes overlapping or widely spaced.


Flowering occurs from October to November.

Flower Colours



Fruiting in April–May.

Propagation Technique

Easy from seed. The hard seed coast should be lightly nicked or sanded to expose the endosperm. Soaking seed in water overnight before sowing often improves the germination success rate. Can be grown from cuttings but these are usually very slow and hard to strike.


Competition from weeds, especially on rocky outcrops; animal browse and loss of habitat.

Chromosome No.

2n = 18

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Commonly sold by commercial nurseries - usually as S. microphylla var. fulvida.

Poisonous plant

All parts of the plant but especially the ripe yellow seed are poisonous. Because the seed are hard they will take a lot of chewing to cause harm. If the seed are crushed before eating it is more likely that they will cause harm. The major toxin is Cytisine and symptoms of poisoning include nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate, twitching of muscles or loss of coordination. Onset of these symptoms may occur within one hour. In extreme cases symptoms include paralysis and respiratory failure. Click on this link for more information about Poisonous native plants.



Fact Sheet prepared for NZPCN by P.J. de Lange 1 August 2003. Description based on Heenan et al. (2001).

References and further reading

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.

This page last updated on 19 Dec 2014