Abstract A site with 250 stems/ha of Pinus radiata D. Don growing on a pumice soil in the central North Island of New Zealand was cleared, disced and harrowed between the trees and fenced to exclude rabbits. Survival and growth of 35 transplanted legumes were followed for 2 years. Shrub weeds were removed during the trial but no further management was imposed and no fertiliser was applied. Six species failed after transplanting. Of the remainder, perennials were more persistent than annuals, most of which failed to re-establish in the second growing season. Competition from resident weeds was one of the most important factors determining relative success or failure. Several species succumbed to browsing by deer or possums. Lupinus arboreus, Lotus uliginosus ‘Grasslands Maku’, Lotus hybrid G4712, Lotus uliginosus G4703, and Chamaecytisus palmensis were considered to be the most successful species on the basis of continued vigour in the second growing season, dry matter production, and relative acetylene reduction (nitrogen fixation) activity.