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Products > Erythrina x bidwillii
Erythrina x bidwillii - Shrub Coral Tree
Image of Erythrina x bidwillii
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Fabaceae = Pea Family
Origin: Garden Origin
Flower Color: Red
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Parentage: (E. herbacea x E. crista-galli)
Height: 8-12 feet
Width: 10-15 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 20-25 F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Erythrina x bidwillii (Shrub Coral Tree) - This is a deciduous small tree or multi-stemmed shrub that 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 foot long terminal racemes that arch out and above the foliage on 6 foot long stems.

Plant in full sun and irrigate infrequently (coastal) to regularly. This hybrid plant inherits hardiness from both its parents and is cold hardy to 20 F without damage and root hardy below this. It is listed for USDA Zones 7b to 10b which in unusual for a Coral Tree! This is a great garden plant - one of the best and smallest of the coral trees. It is typically seen as a shrub but with time and some training it makes a very nice small tree. Trim back after flowering and prune hard in winter to maintain shape.

Erythrina x bidwillii is the result of cross between Erythrina herbacea, a North American species, and Erythrina crista-galli from South America. This hybrid cross was first done by William Macarthur in the early 1840s at Camden Park in Australia. Macarthur was one of the most active and influential horticulturists of his time in Australia and he originally named the plant Erythrina camdeni. The English botanist John Carne Bidwill, then living in Sydney, sent a plant to the botanist William Herbert in England, suggesting the name Erythrina macarthuri to honor its originator. When John Lindley published the name in the Botanical Register in 1847, the origin apparently was not clear to him, so he named it after Bidwill. Besides Shrub Coral Tree another common name we have seen for this plant is Fireman's Cap.

There is no evidence that this cross was not later remade in the U.S. but there is some presumption that the plants in cultivation here in the U.S. are from Macarthur's plant from Camden Park, which is sometimes referred to as Erythrina x bidwillii 'Camdeni' - there is another clone from this cross called Erythrina x bidwillii 'Blakei' that has purple flower shoots and dies to the ground annually, while the 'Camdeni' form, like those in cultivation in the U.S., have green shoots and can grow to be small trees. Peter Riedel in his Plants for Extra-Tropical Regions (published in 1957 three years after Riedel had passed) listed the plant as Erythrina herbacea 'Bidwillii' noting that it was first listed as such in a catalog in the U.S. in 1945. He also noted that the famous plantsman Bill Evans (son of Hugh Evans of Evans and Reeves Nursery and landscape designer of Disneyland) called this plant "by all odds the finest of all the true shrubby types of Erythrina, coming into bloom in May, flowering almost perpetually throughout the summer, carrying innumerable, long, slender, graceful stems of glowing crimson flowers, contrasting with the green foliage." We started growing this great plant in 1982. The 2nd image link from this page shows a row of this plant trained up as trees in front of a commercial building along Hawthorne Blvd in Torrance but unfortunately this planting no longer exists. 

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