CORAL TREE

FAMILY: Papilionaceae | GENUS: ERYTHRINA

TYPE
  • Perennials
  • Evergreen
  • Shrubs
  • Trees
  • Deciduous
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
WATER
  • Moderate Water
PLANTING ZONES
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 10
  • TS (Tropical South) / Zone 11
SPECIAL FEATURES
  • Poisonous/Toxic

Plant Details

These thorny trees and shrubs are prized for their brilliant flowers, in colors ranging from pink through red, orange, and yellow that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The flat, beanlike pods that follow contain poisonous seeds. Leaves have three leaflets and usually drop in fall or winter. E.xbidwillii, E. crista-galli, and E. herbacea are hardy outside the Tropical South. Not browsed by deer.

E. acanthocarpa. TAMBOOKIE THORN. Deciduous shrub. Native to South Africa. To 3 ft. tall (rarely 6 ft.); as wide as tall. Roundish blue-green leaets to 1 in. long. Spring ower spikes are 7 in. long, 6 in. wide, with scarlet, yellow-tipped owers. Thorny plant grows from large, thick tuberlike root. Don't plant it near pavement, which can be lifted by root.

E. americana. MEXICAN CORAL TREE. Deciduous tree. Native to Mexico; used as street tree in Mexico City. Grows to 25 ft. tall and wide. Resembles E. coralloides in both habit and owers. Leaves are gray-green.

E. x. bidwillii. Deciduous shrub. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. To 8 ft., sometimes treelike to 20 ft. or more, wide spreading. Hybrid of E. crista-galli and E.herbacea. Leaves to 8 in. long. Pure red, 2-ft.-long flower clusters on long, willowy stalks from spring until winter; main show in summer, when display is spectacular. Cut back owering wood when owers are spent. Very thorny, so plant away from paths and prune with long-handled shears.

E. coralloides. NAKED CORAL TREE. Deciduous tree. Native to Mexico. To 30 ft. high and as wide, but easily contained by pruning. Fiery red blossoms like fat candles or pinecones bloom at the tips of naked, twisted, black-thorned branches in spring. At end of owering season, 8- to 10-in. leaves develop; these give shade in summer, then turn yellow in late fall before dropping. Bizarre branch structure when tree is out of leaf is almost as valuable as spring ower display. Sometimes sold as E.poianthes.

E. crista-galli. CRY-BABY TREE, COCKSPUR CORAL TREE. Deciduous shrub or small tree 1520 ft. high and wide in nearly frostless areas; perennial to 4ft. in colder areas. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. From eastern South America. Leathery leaves 1 ft. long. First owers form after leaves come in springat each branch tip is a big, loose, spikelike cluster of velvety, birdlike blossoms in warm pink to wine-red (plants vary). Teardrops of nectar that drip from flowers explain common name cry-baby tree. There can be as many as three owering periods, spring through fall. Cut back old ower stems and dead branch ends after each bloom.

E. falcata. BRAZILIAN CORAL TREE. Nearly evergreen tree. Native to Brazil and Peru. Grows upright to 3040 ft. high. Must be in ground several years before it owers (may take 10 to 12 years). Leaves similar to those of E. crista-galli. Rich deep red (occasionally orange-red), sickle-shaped owers in hanging, spikelike clusters at branch ends in late winter, early spring. Some leaves fall at owering time.

E. herbacea. CORAL BEAN, CHEROKEE BEAN. Perennial to 6 ft. high in Middle and Lower South; deciduous shrub or small tree to 15 ft. tall in Coastal and Tropical South. Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. Grows taller than wide. Bright red, 2-in. blooms appear in 8- to 12-in. spikes from spring until frost. Red seeds that follow the flowers are attractive but extremely poisonous.

E. humeana. NATAL CORAL TREE. Deciduous shrub or tree (sometimes almost evergreen). Native to South Africa. May reach 30 ft. tall and wide but begins to bear bright orange-red owers when 3 ft. high. Blooms continuously from late summer to late fall, with owers in long-stalked clusters at branch ends well above foliage (unlike many other types). Dark green leaves. 'Raja' is shrubbier, has leaets with long, pointed tails.

E. variegata. VARIEGATED CORAL TREE. Deciduous tree. Native to Africa, Asia, Polynesia. To 2030 ft. tall or much taller, with spreading form. Thick, prickly trunk and branches. Rich green leaves have 3- to 8-in. leaets. Profuse display of coral-red owers in late winter, early spring. Forms are available with white flowers and variegated leaves.

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