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Products > Erythrina crista-galli
Erythrina crista-galli - Cockspur Coral Tree
Image of Erythrina crista-galli
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Fabaceae = Pea Family
Origin: Brazil (South America)
Flower Color: Pink
Bloomtime: Spring
Synonyms: [E. laurifolia]
Height: 15-20 feet
Width: 15-20 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 15-20° F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Erythrina crista-galli (Cockspur Coral Tree) - A deciduous small tree that grows to 15 to 20+ feet tall and equal width with a somewhat crooked trunk that has a dark furrowed bark. The leaves are composed of 3 dark green leaflets, 3 to 6 inches long by 1 1/2 inch wide, that have curved thorns along the veins on the backside and on the petioles. The 2 inch long by 1 inch wide flowers, usually scarlet-red but sometimes pink, red-purple or with white markings, 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 year's 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 hardy down to 14° F. It is best to prune this tree at least annually to remove the past year's spent flower spikes and to encourage repeat flowering and maintain size. Friends in Austin tell us that this tree does not recover in a season to bloom after a frost given their radically fast heat to frost events, while Erythrina x bidwillii, the hybrid of this species with Erythrina herbacea does great there. The species is wide spread in South America from Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay and are the national trees of Argentina and Uruguay. The name for the genus comes from the Greek word 'erythros' meaning "red" in reference to the color of the flowers of most of the species. The specific epithet comes the Latin word 'gallus' meaning rooster and 'crista' meaning a "crest" combined to mean a "cock's comb" and the phrase "crista galli" is the technical medical term used for the bone that projects above the cribriform plate on the human skull, in an analogy to the crest-like comb on the roosters head. It is also commonly known as Cock's Comb Tree, Ceibo, Seíbo, Corticeira and Bucaré. The most common of the English common names, Cockspur Tree, is presumably a reference to the similarity of this plants sharp angled flower buds and the calacar bone protrusion on a rooster's leg, commonly called the "spur". In Southeastern United States it is also called "Cry Baby Tree" because of the prodigious quantities of nectar which can drip from the flowers. This tree has long been in cultivation in California and elsewhere in the world. Harry Butterfield in his Dates of Introduction of Trees and Shrubs to California (Landscape Horticulture University of California, Davis 1964), wrote that it was introduced into California by Sacramento agriculturist Colonel James Lafayette Warren in 1853 and trees of considerable size were noted by Dr. Franceschi when he arrived in Santa Barbara in 1893. This species received the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in 2012. 

This information about Erythrina crista-galli displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.