Sophora chrysophylla

leaf Main Plant Information





Hawaiian Names with Diacritics

  • Māmane
  • Mamani

Hawaiian Names

  • Mamane
  • Mamani


  • Edwardsia chrysophylla
  • Edwardsia unifoliata
  • Sophora grisea
  • Sophora lanaiensis
  • Sophora unifoliata

leaf Plant Characteristics

Distribution Status


Endangered Species Status

No Status

Plant Form / Growth Habit

  • Shrub
  • Tree

Mature Size, Height (in feet)

  • Shrub, Medium, 6 to 10
  • Shrub, Tall, Greater than 10
  • Tree, Small, 15 to 30
  • Tree, Medium, 30 to 50

Mature Size, Width

Māmane have a 3 to 20 foot spread.

Life Span

Long lived (Greater than 5 years)

Landscape Uses

  • Hedges
  • Screening
  • Specimen Plant

Additional Landscape Use Information

Although māmane is a mid to high elevation growing plant, it can be grown under cultivation at much lower elevations. For urban areas, try to acquire low elevation plants if possible. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]

When young, the trees should be planted out and protected from intense direct sunlight, strong winds, and heavy rain until they reach 8 inches tall. Plants will flower in 2 to 5 years. Keep roots cool by growing them with other shrubs to shade the soil surface area or with mulching.

Māmane is not recommended as a potted plant.

Source of Fragrance

  • No Fragrance

Plant Produces Flowers


leaf Flower Characteristics

Flower Type


Flower Colors

  • Yellow

Additional Flower Color Information

Bright yellow clusters of flowers produced at the end of the branches.

Blooming Period

  • Sporadic
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Fall
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November

Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information

The winged fruits are constricted between the seeds and turn brown and woody when seeds ripen. The brown fruits remain on the tree throughout the year. The seeds are brown, brownish-gray, grayish-black, yellow, or orange. Abundant viable seeds can be found under the trees and are resilient to rot.

Generally speaking, māmane lack pronounced peaks of flowering. But some specific island information is also available. For example, māmane on Hawaiʻi Island flowering period from July to November where they provide food for ʻiʻiwi. [2] On Maui they bloom in July and August. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC] Information for Haleakalā National Park, Maui mentions the peak flowering period is "March in the Front Country and in December in Kaupō Gap." [14]

leaf Leaf Characteristics

Plant texture

  • Medium

Additional Plant Texture Information

Leaves are grayish green and on t he lower surface have golden brown hairs turning gray. They range between less than an inch to 2 inches in length.

Leaf Colors

  • Light Green
  • Gray / Silverish
  • Medium Green

leaf Pests and Diseases

Additional Pest & Disease Information

Thrips can be problematic. Chinese rose beetles may initially defoliate leaves, but subsequent defoliation attacks are much less common.

Extensive grazing by domesticated and feral ungulates (cattle, sheep, goats) have had a great impact on māmane populations in their natural habitat. [3]

leaf Growth Requirements


Māmane are nitrogen-fixing plants. Suggestions range from none to medium amounts of nitrogen in fertilizers. However, Ethan Romanchak of Native Nursery, LLC recommends to "fertilize with high N-P [Nitrogen-Phosphorus] often."

Pruning Information

These are slow growing trees needing no pruning. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

Water Requirements

  • Dry

Additional Water Information

Depending on source, low to medium amounts of water.

Soil must be well drained


Light Conditions

  • Full sun
  • Partial sun

Additional Lighting Information

Best grown in full sun.

Spacing Information

3-5 feet for shrubs; 10-15 feet for trees.


  • Drought
  • Wind


  • Cinder
  • Organic


Poor tolerance to salt. Māmane does not tolerate coastal, clay or coral type soils. [Ethan Romanchak, Native Nursery, LLC]

leaf Environmental Information

Natural Range

  • Kauaʻi
  • Oʻahu
  • Molokaʻi
  • Lānaʻi
  • Maui
  • Hawaiʻi

Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)

  • Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • Less than 150, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 150 to 1000, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 1000 to 1999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 1000 to 1999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 2000 to 2999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 2000 to 2999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 3000 to 3999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 3000 to 3999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)
  • 4000 to 4999, 0 to 50 (Dry)
  • 4000 to 4999, 50 to 100 (Mesic)


  • Terrestrial

Additional Habitat Information

Māmane is found in dry to mesic forests and subalpine areas, sometimes in wet forests, generally from about 1475 to 10,630 feet. Most commonly seen on East Maui and Hawaiʻi Island at higher elevations.

Apparently rare on Kauaʻi, Oʻahu and Molokaʻi; extinct on Lānaʻi (?). [12]

leaf Special Features and Information

General Information

Māmane (Sophora chrysophylla) is a member of the Pea or Legume family (Fabaceae). There are about 50 species in the genus Sophora, with māmane as the sole representative in the Hawaiian Islands.

Some interesting kin in the genus are eight yellow-flowered species from New Zealand known as Kōwhai (Māori for yellow); the fascinating Yellow necklace pod (Sophora tomentosa) with constricted round seed pods; Ku-Shen (S. flavescens), a Chinese medicinal herb; and Toromiro (S. toromiro), the last of the endemic trees from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) that was barely saved from extinction.


The generic name Sophora is derived from the Arabic name for some papilionaceous (papilio, butterfly) tree, in reference to the pea-shaped flowers resembling a butterfly.

The specific epithet chrysophylla is derived from the Greek chryso, golden, and phyllum, leaves.

Hawaiian Names:

The name Mamano is used by one source. [12] However, Pukui & Elbert have no reference for the name for this species. [13]

Background Information

Māmane leaf buds, flowers, and especially the green seed pods, are a main food source for the palila (Loxiodes balleui), an endangered honeycreeper now restricted to the māmane/naio forests of Mauna Kea, Hawaiʻi Island. The palila formerly had a much larger range on Hawaiʻi Island, south to the e. slope of Hualālai and n.w. slope of Mauna Loa. Fossil records indicate that it also once inhabited the dry lowland forests of Oʻahu (Barber's Point) and Kauaʻi. [9] Incidentally, māmane is/was also recorded at living nearly at sea level just above 100 ft. [10,11,12]

Additionally, the yellow and green coloration of these birds may have served as camouflague among the trees, protecting them in pre-historic times from predators such as the Wood harrier (Circus dossenus) and the stilt-owls (Grallistrix spp.), and possibly from a hawk (Buteo sp.) on Oʻahu--all now extinct. Perched among the branches palila are nearly indistinguishable among the bright yellow māmane flowers and grayish green seed pods and leaves. [8]

Māmane is fire tolerant and often after burns seedlings can be seen sprouting. They cannot however tolerate feral goats and sheep feeding upon them. [7]

Early Hawaiian Use

Games & Sports:

Usually māmane, or sometimes uhiuhi, wood was used for sled runners in a sport for the aristocrats called hōlua. The slopes, or sledding track, called kahua hōlua were usually made with layers of grass or ti leaves. [6,15]

The papa hōlua, the sled used for this sport, was made of two narrow runners and were 7 to 12 or 18 feet long, 2 or 3 inches deep, rounded on the bottom, and highly polished. The front end tapered off and turned upward so as not to dig into the soil. The two runners were fastened together by a number of short pieces of wood laid horizontally across and lashed to the runners with cordage. Matting on the platform was lashed to the crossbars separating the runners. [15]

Notes the Huliheʻe Palace website: "The person about to slide gripped the sled by the right hand grip, ran a few yard to the starting place, grasped the other hand grip with the left hand, threw himself forward with all his strength, fell flat on the sled and slid down the hill. His hands held the handgrips and the feet were braced against the last cross piece on the rear portion of the sled. The sport was extremely dangerous as the sleds attained high speed running down hill. Much skill was necessary to keep an even balance and to keep from running off the slide or overturning the sled. In competitions, the sled that went the farthest, won." [16]

House Construction:

The strong wood was used for posts, rafters and thatching posts or purlins in house (hale) construction. [5,6]


The bright yellow flowers were used in lei making. [1,3,4]


Māmane flowers were used as astringent. [15]

Other Uses:

The wood was fashioned into scraping board for olonā, adze handles, and farm spades. [5,6,15] It was also used as a superior fire wood. [6]

Modern Use

Years ago the hard, durable wood was used in fences. [5]

The seeds can be strung on a beautiful permanent lei and flowers as temporary lei.

Soaked seeds produce a bright yellow to amber colored water and possibly could be used to make a yellow dye.

Wood is still used today to smoke meat. [7]

Additional References

[1] "Plants in Hawaiian Culture" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 56, 77.
[2] Birds of North American Online (accessed 1/26/09)

[3] "Hawaiian Forest Plants" by Mark Merlin, page 74.

[4] "Nā Lei Makamae--The Treasured Lei" by Marie A. McDonald & Paul R. Weissich, pages 86-87.

[5] "In Gardens of Hawaii" by Marie C. Neal, pages 442-443.

[6] "Auwahi: Ethnobotany of a Hawaiian Dryland Forest" by A.C. Medeiros, C.F. Davenport & C.G. Chimera, page 15.

[7] "Hawai'i's Plants and Animals--Biological Sketches of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park" by Charles P. Stone & Linda W. Pratt, page 246.

[8] "Hawaiian Natural History, and Evolution" by Alan C. Ziegler, pages 260, 271-272.

[9] "The Hawaiian Honeycreeper: Drapandidae" by H. Douglas Pratt, pages 204-205.

[10] "New and Noteworthy Hawaiian Plants" by Dr. L. Radlkoffer and J. F. Rock, page 42.

[11] "Lana'i Island's Arid Lowland Vegetation" in Late Prehistory by Melinda S. Allen and Gail M. Murakami, pages 102-103.

[12] "Common Forest Trees of Hawaii (Native and Introduced)" by Elbert L. Little Jr. and Roger G. Skolmen, page 166.

[13] Hawaiian Dictionaries online [Accessed 11/16/11]

[14] Haleakalā National Park [Accessed on 7/16/13]

[15] "Ethnobotany of Hawaii" by Beatrice H. Krauss, pages 155-157.

[16] Huliheʻe Palace [Accessed 9/27/13]



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