Sophora godleyi


Sophora: after the Arabic name for a similar tree

Common Name(s)

papa kowhai, Godley's kowhai

Current Conservation Status

2012 - Not Threatened

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 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Sophora godleyi Heenan et de Lange



Brief Description

A weeping kowhai tree bearing leaves to 170mm long that have equal-sized yellowish-hairy leaflets 2-8mm long and with bunches of drooping yellow flowers and dry ridged and knobbly seed pods 60-120mm long containing hard yellow seeds. Juveniles with zig-zagging branches. Occurring in Central North Island.

Flora Category

Vascular - Native

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


None (described in 2001)


Endemic. New Zealand: North Island (in the west from Mokauiti River to the Manawatu)


Mainly on limestone and calcareous mudstones, siltstones, and sandstones (Papa), and on alluvium derived from these parent materials. It has also been collected from old sand dunes in the vicinity of Bulls and Lake Alice


Small to large tree, often up to 25 m high, with 1 main trunk or several prominent main branches; main branches upright to spreading. Divaricating and/or strongly flexuose, juvenile branchlets absent; branchlets densely pubescent, becoming glabrous with age; hairs appressed, spreading or patent, predominantly curly, curved, or twisted, also straight. Seedlings and juveniles moderately to densely leafy, leaves with increasing numbers of leaflets. Leaflets on juveniles 6.0-9.0 × 3.5-6.0 mm, ovate, ± orbicular to elliptic, glabrous to sparsely pubescent, becoming moderately pubescent, not crowded or overlapping. Leaves on adults up to 170 mm long, imparipinnate, petioles and rachides channelled above, leaflets 47-75. Leaflets on adults 2.0-8.0 × 2.0-5.0 mm ovate to broadly elliptic sometimes ± orbicular, distal leaflets usually smaller than proximal leaflets, sometimes crowded but not overlapping, adaxial surface grey to green ; grey, abaxial surface lighter than adaxial surface and often concave; apices usually retuse to sometimes rounded; bases obtuse; petiolules up to 2 mm long, often only up to 0.5 mm long on leaflets < 3 mm long; petioles, rachides, petiolules, and leaflets usually pilose, sometimes villous, hairs 0.2-0.6 mm appressed, decumbent, spreading or patent, predominantly curly, curved, or twisted, but also straight. Inflorescences racemose, with up to 7 flowers; peduncle and rachis 20-40 mm long; pedicels up to 20 mm long, each subtended by a bract; bracts 1.5-3.5 mm long; peduncles, rachides, pedicels, bracts, and calyces moderately to densely pubescent; hairs brown appressed, decumbent, spreading, or patent. Calyx 9-13 × 10-16 mm, cupulate, rim shallowly lobed, with deeper notch adjacent to standard. Corolla yellow; keel petal blade 34-50 × 9-14 mm, wing petal blade 25-18 × 6-9 mm, standard petal blade 20-35 × 1 1-2 1 mm; petals with distinct claws, 5.0-6.5 mm long. Stipe 6-1 1 mm long, ± glabrous. Ovary 17-23 mm long, densely pubescent; hairs 0.4-0.7 mm long, off-white to light brown, appressed, spreading or patent, straight, curved or twisted. Style 12-14 mm long, exserted beyond anthers glabrous or with a few twisted hairs. Stigma fringed with short hairs. Filaments 25-40 mm long; anthers 1.8-2.0 × 0.9-1.0 mm. Fruit 60-120 mm long, 4-winged, brown, sparsely to moderately pubescent, with up to 11 seeds. Seeds 5-8 × 4-5 mm, oblong, yellow to yellow-brown.

Similar Taxa

Distinguished from Sophora fulvida (Allan) Heenan et de Lange by the leaves which have 47-75 leaflets; by the ovate, broadly elliptic, to sometimes more or less orbicular leaflets, with a more or less distinct petiolule; by the leaflet hairs appressed, decumbent, spreading, or patent, predominantly curly, curved, or twisted; and restriction to the central North Island, where it grows on siltstone, sandstone, and mudstone (papa)


October – December

Flower Colours



January - May

Propagation Technique

Easy from seed. The hard seed coast should be lightly nicked or sanded and then soaked in water overnight before sowing to improve germination. Can be grown from cuttings but these are usually very slow and hard to strike.


Not Threatened

Chromosome No.

2n = 18

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family





Description from 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: 17-53

This page last updated on 25 Jul 2014