Erythrina crista-galli (Cockspur Coral Tree)

Scientific Name

Erythrina crista-galli L.

Common Names

Cockspur Coral Tree

Synonyms

Erythrina crista-galli var. crista-galli, Corallodendron crista-galli, Erythrina fasciculata, Erythrina laurifolia, Erythrina pulcherrima, Erythrina speciosa, Micropteryx crista-galli, Micropteryx fasciculata, Micropteryx laurifolia

Scientific Classification

Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
Tribe: Phaseoleae
Genus: Erythrina

Flower

Color: Usually scarlet red
Bloom Time: Spring to summer

Description

Erythrina crista-galli is a small, deciduous tree that grows up to 26 feet (8 m) tall and equal width with a somewhat crooked trunk with a dark furrowed bark. Leaves are composed of 3 dark green leaflets, up to 6 inches (15 cm) long and up to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) wide, that have curved thorns along the veins on the backside and the petioles. Flowers are up to 2 inches (5 cm) long and up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. They are usually scarlet red but sometimes pink, red-purple, or with white markings, borne singly or in groups of 2 to 3 in loose terminal racemes, up to 2 feet (60 cm) 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.

Erythrina crista-galli - Cockspur Coral Tree
Photo via onlineplantguide.com

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zone 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Growing Coral Trees is only appropriate outdoors in USDA zones 9 and up. Coral Tree care is easy if you are in the correct region, but some growers may find them messy.

Coral Trees need very little water. Too much water promotes a weak limb structure and subsequent breakage. Overwatering causes the tree to grow too quickly, and its softwood cannot support such spurts. Then in the dry season, the weight of the tree can pull it out of the soil.

Pruning the tree in spring to remove the heavier stems or any damaged material will help prevent limb loss and trees from tipping. Fertilizer is also not recommended when growing Coral Trees.

Fertilizer also causes them to have aggressive growth that can cause problems later. Cover over the root zone with a good organic mulch, which will gradually leach a light dose of nutrients into the soil over time. See more at How to Grow and Care for Coral Trees.

Origin

Native to Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil, and Paraguay.

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