Find out about this community-driven project dedicated to the protection and enhancement of kōwhai trees in Otago.

Project Gold logo.
Project Gold logo

Project Gold is a DOC initiated project dedicated to the protection and enhancement of kōwhai trees in Otago by gathering seeds, growing seedlings and planting a new generation of kōwhai.

The vision is: ‘Kōwhai trees once again flourish throughout Otago. Golden flowers light up the hills in spring, attracting visitors and birds.’

The kōwhai is one of Otago’s best known and loved indigenous trees and is ingrained in our history and Māori culture.

Project Gold has two main objectives:

  • encourage Otago people to grow and look after their own kōwhai trees.
  • strengthen enthusiasm for dryland forest restoration.

Community and other volunteer support is vital to its success. We’re working with organisations, communities and individuals throughout Otago, providing resources and information and ensuring locally sourced trees are available for local projects by landowners, community groups and schools.

A highlight will be the widespread planting and maintenance of kōwhai along the length of the Otago Central Rail Trail.

Get involved

Want to be involved? You could start a Project Gold site at your local park or reserve, on your farm or station, in your backyard, or your school grounds.

Or you could join a volunteer group that already has a Project Gold kōwhai site.

How to grow and care for kowhai.

If you have green fingers or are just interested in kōwhai trees and would like to help out, contact your local DOC office or check out Project Gold planting events in your area.

Eco-sourcing kōwhai in Otago

Eco-sourced plants are those which are grown from seeds collected from naturally-occurring vegetation in a locality close to where they are replanted as part of a native planting project.

There are eight species of kōwhai in New Zealand but only one is a tree that grows naturally in Otago (Sophora microphylla - sometimes called the South Island kōwhai). Ask your nursery for eco-sourced kōwhai of this species – avoid cultivars and hybrids. Locally adapted plants have the best chance of survival.

The main reasons for eco-sourcing in native planting projects are:

  • To avoid the risk of planting species which aren’t native to their locality and which could become invasive
  • To maintain the distinctiveness of a local flora. For many species the appearance, physiology and genetic make-up vary considerably throughout their range in New Zealand<
  • Local native wild plants are best suited to local conditions and therefore typically grow better than those sourced from elsewhere.

Several Otago nurseries hold concessions to collect seed from reserves and conservation land for the purposes of supplying eco-sourced plant material.

Back to top