Native to the warmer regions throughout the world, Coral Trees are noted for thier brilliant display of orange to scarlet flowers. They are
generally short-trunked trees with irregular secondary branches and are often armed with thorny prickles on the trunk, branches, petioles
and occassionally on the leaves. The leaves, composed of 3 leaflets, are usually deciduous which often coincides with the peak of flowering,
allowing the flowers throughout the tree to be visible. The flowers forms vary between the species from a typical pea shape with a broad banner petal rising
vertically from the flower, such as Erythina caffra or they can be somewhat tubular and long such as in Erythrina coraloides. The bean-like fruit
that follows the flowers often have brightly colored seeds that should generally be considered poisonous.
Coral Trees In Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara has a near ideal climate to grow Coral Trees (except the very tropical types) and specimens of nearly every type cultivated in California can be found growing in gardens and parks throughout the city. When Dr. Francesco Franceschi, who is credited with introducing more plants into California than any one other person, arrived in Santa Barbara in 1893 he cataloged the plants that he found here. Dr. Franceschi listed only Erythrina crista-galli and proceeded to introduce 10 additional species in the 20 years he remained in Santa Barbara.
The book "The Trees of Santa Barbara" written in 1974 by Katherine Muller, Richard Broder and Will Beitel, listed 8 species of Erythrina growing in public areas within the city limits. Because of these factors and the timely publication in February 1982 of the Fourth Erythrina Sympossium in Allertonia (Volume 3) which listed all of the coral trees and contained an article by Elizabeth McClintock on the Erythrina in cultivation in California, San Marcos Growers embarked upon an Erythrina testing and introduction program in 1982. Seed lists were scoured and trips to other collections were arranged so that within a year the nursery was working on the propagation of 30 different species or cultivars. Although many of these plants were later lost in unseasonal hard frosts, many of the species and cultivars remain and are still in production at the nursery to this day.
The following is a list of Erythrina that are in our collection (Some but not all are available to purchase):
Erythrina abyssinica - Abyssinian Coral Tree
A deciduous upright spreading tree to about 30 feet with beautiful light brown corky bark. The flowers which can appear in late winter while the plant is bare or as late as early summer are bright red with banners and other
petals about the same length and wavy stamens topping the cone-like inflorescence. This species is widespread in Africa, extending in the north from the Sudan and Ethiopia south
to Zimbabwe. Our plants from cuttings taken off a tree growing at Franceschi Park in Santa Barbara, CA.
Erythrina acanthocarpa - Tambookie Thorn
An interesting small Coral Tree from South Africa. From a swollen basal caudex arises thorny stems that only grow to 3 to 5 feet tall. The leaves of Tambookie Thorn are composed of three bluish-green leaflets. In the spring, red flowers with greenish yellow tips bloom on 6 inch long spikes. Plant in full sun, water deeply and infrequently. A good plant for the a succulent garden or in a large pot where the large base can be observed. (We are currently not growing this species)
Erythrina x bidwillii
One of our favorite Coral Trees. This is a deciduous small tree or multi-stemmed shrub can grow to as tall as 18 feet but is typically seen as an 8 foot shrub. It blooms continually on the new growth from spring through winter with peak
flowering in summer months. The narrow 2" long dark red flowers are on long 2-3 foot spikes that arch out and above the foliage. Water infrequently (Coastal) to regularly. Trim back after flowering and prune hard in winter to maintain shape. This plant inherits hardiness from its parentage (E. crista-galli x E. herbacea)
being hardy to 20 F without damage and root hardy below this, unusual for a Coral Tree! One of the best and smallest of the Coral Trees.
Erythrina coralloides - Naked Coral Tree
This deciduous tree from eastern central Mexica defoliates before the spring bloom giving it the fitting common name. It grows to 30 feet tall and just as wide with beautiful pale yellow to greenish-orange bark. The bright red tubular flowers put on a brilliant display in the
spring while the tree is leafless. Grow in full sun, water deeply and infrequently.
Erythrina coralloides 'Bicolor'- Bicolored Naked Coral Tree
This interesting form of the common Naked Coral Tree has white flower clusters, red flower clusters and mixed colored clusters on the same plant from February to June. Quite a stunning site. As with the typical form this deciduous tree from Mexico grows to 20-30 feet and is useful in a sunny dry garden where its scuptural mustard brown trunk and thorny stems crowned with clusters of red flowers can be best appreciated. Hardy to frosts to the mid 20's° F. Origins of this plant are a mystery - our original stock plant from Lotusland.
Erythrina crista-galli - Cockspur Coral Tree
A deciduous small tree from S. America (Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay) that grows to 15 to 20+ feet tall and equal width with a somewhat crocked trunk having dark furrowed bark. The leaves are comprised of 3 dark green leaflets, 3 to 6 inches long by 1 1/2 inch wide, that have curved thorns on the veins on the backside and petioles. The 2 inch long by 1 inch wide flowers, usually a scarlet-red but sometimes pink or red-purple, are borne singly or in groups of 2-3 in loose terminal racemes to 2 feet long from spring to summer. These inflorescences emerge from the current years growth and several flushes of flowers can appear, particularly if old flower stalks are pruned off. Plant in full sun and irrigate only occasionally. This is one of the hardiest of the coral trees and is noted that once established it will tolerate temperatures to 20° F without significant dieback and is root hard down to 14° F. It is best to prune this tree at least annually to remove the past years spent flower spikes and to encourage repeat flowers and maintain size. The common name comes from the similarity between the comb of a rooster and the broad crimson petals in the flower.
Erythrina flabelliformis - Coral Bean
A deciduous small tree or shrub to 15' with scarlet flowers in late spring from the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona New Mexico south into Mexico. Hardy to 5F.
Eyrthrina falcata - Evergreen Coral Tree
A mostly evergreen large tree from Peru and Bolivia that grows erectly to 40 to 50+ feet tall and only drops some of its leaves at flowering time in the late winter to early spring.
The flowers on this species are a deep red and bloom on spikes at the ends of the branches. Full sun, deep watering.
Erythrina humeana - Natal Coral Tree
A fall blooming winter deciduous coral tree from the eastern Cape Province northward through Natal, Zululand and the eastern Transvaal in South Africa. It
is a suitable size for even the small garden. Flowers, emerging in August, are held 2 feet above the dark green foliage crown - a stunning site in bloom.
Erythrina humeana var. raja - Dwarf Natal Coral Tree
This hybrid is a shrub variety growing to 10 feet tall and as wide. It has distinguishing smaller pointed leaflets. The smaller red flowers bloom in late summer through fall. Full sun, deep water.
Erythrina speciosa (Pink form)
This decidous small tree or multi-stemmed shrub from comes from southeastern Brazil. It has clusters of pink flowers at the branch tips - other color forms such do exist. Blooms naked much like E. coralloides.
Our plants from cuttings given to us by the San Diego Zoo.
Erythrina x sykesii
A medium to large semi-deciduous tree with spreading form to 30 feet tall by as wide. This plant is considered to be a hybrid that was originally discovered in Australia but it's parentage is unknown. The bright red flowers are showy appear fall through spring but are most noticable while the tree is deciduos in late winter
to early spring. There are many fine specimens of this tree in California from San Diego to Santa Barbara.