T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Sophora howinsula (Lord Howe Kowhai)

Kingdom: Plantae
(Unranked): Angiosperms
(Unranked): Eudicots
(Unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Sophoreae
Genus: Sophora
Scientific Name: S. howinsula
Binomial name: Sophora howinsula
Synonym: Sophora tetraptera var. howinsula
Common name: Lord Howe Kowhai, Lord Howe's 'ironwood', Lignum Vitae

Sophora howinsula an evergreen shrub or small tree native to Lord Howe Island where it can still be found scattered on some lowland hills. Though it has been growing in New Zealand for many years some say it should be regarded as an Australian species as recent research has shown the plant originates from seed collected on Lord Howe Island. It grows up to 15m tall and is similar to the New Zealand kowhai species Sophora tetraptera, sharing similar golden flowers which it produces in spring. Sophora howinsula leaflets are larger. An unusual feature of this tree is the large woody swelling at the base of the stem, known as a lignotuber. 
This species hybridises with the New Zealand natives and several garden hybrids and cultivars are available, including 'Otari Gnome' and 'Tui's Gold'.

Photographed at Otari-Wilton's bush Wellington, New Zealand.
 

 

Sun shining through leaves highlighting the veins.
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