Fabaceae (pea family) Erythrina

Erythrina humeana Natal coral tree

South Africa
Erythrina humeana next to Old Union (now removed). 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. A few small but nasty prickles will be found on the leaflet midribs and the leafstalks. The hard shiny seeds, which are indigestible, 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 cherished specimen, regularly visited by Anna’s hummingbirds, grew at the southeast corner of the Clubhouse in the Old Union complex. It was removed in 2007 after having suffered dieback from freezing temperatures.

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; humeana – honoring Sir Abraham Hume.

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). Moved mention in the 2005 book of the possible hybrid to the E. coralloides entry; edits (Jun 2023, SP).