Erythrina humeana
Natal coral tree

Fabaceae (pea family)
South Africa
Erythrina humeana next to Old Union. John Rawlings, 2 Oct 2003

A small spectacular tree in late summer through fall, a few flowers persisting into winter after leaf drop. Each leaf has three spade-shaped leaflets, the whole being about 2 feet long. A few small but nasty thorns will be found on the leaflet midribs and the leafstalks. The hard shiny seeds, which are indigestible, are designed to attract birds, who then aid seed dispersal. The flowers are recognizably pea flowers but are bundled in such a way as to open in sequence.

Erythrina humeana leaf silhouette. From Trees of Stanford and Environs by Ronald Bracewell

A specimen grew in White Plaza outside the southeast corner of Old Union, and was one of our favorite campus trees. Anna’s hummingbirds were regular vistors. It had suffered dieback from freezing temperatures. It was removed by contractors the first week in June, 2007.

There are dozens of species and cultivars of Erythrina that are widely used in the tropics.

Illustrations: gallery.

Name derivation: Erythrina – Gk. erythros (red), allusion to flower color.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. John Rawlings subsequently made updates (notes on tree removal and hummingbirds).