Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Sophora Tetraptera

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch


Sophora tetraptera flower (17/01/2012, London)

Sophora tetraptera flower (17/01/2012, London)

Position: Sun to Partial Shade

Flowering period: Spring

Soil: Well Drained

Eventual Height: 8m

Eventual Spread: 4m

Hardiness: 8b – 9b

Family: Fabaceae

Sophora tetraptera is a semi evergreen large shrub or small upright tree with an open habit. Its dark green leaves are glossy, pinnate, each with up to 20 pairs of ovate leaflets. The individual leaflets arre up to 2cm long. The yellow flowers appear en mass in racemes. These appear in the form of drooping panicles with very prominent anthers and are up to 6cm long. 

Sophora tetraptera, commonly known as the Large Leaved Kowhai or the North Island Kowhai, is native to the north island of New Zealand. The Kowhai is the traditional national flower of New Zealand. All parts of this plant are toxic if ingested. This tree was introduced into the UK in 1772 by Joseph Banks who sailed with Captain James Cook on his first round the world expedition.

The etymological root of the binomial name Sophora is derived from the Arabic name, sophera, for a pea-flowered tree. Tetraptera is derived from the Greek tetra ‘four’ and petalon ‘leaf’ or ‘petal’, in reference to the flower.

Sophora tetraptera (17/01/2012, London)

Sophora tetraptera (17/01/2012, London)

The landscape architect may find  Sophora tetraptera useful as a floriferous semi-evergreen, early spring flowering small tree.

Ecologically S. tetraptera is attractive to bees.

The Royal Horticultural Society has given S. tetraptera their prestigious Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

S. tetraptera prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil.

S. tetraptera requires little maintenance.


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