Erythrina is a genus of tropical and subtropical flowering trees in the Family Fabaceae and distributed in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.
The name coral tree
is used for many of these trees. Many species of Erythrina
have bright red flowers, and this may be the origin of the common name (Greek ερυθρος
). However, the growth of the branches can resemble the shape of sea coral
, and this is an alternative source for the name. In horticulture
, the name "coral tree" is used to refer to any red-flowered member of the genus.
Not all species of Erythrina
have bright red flowers; the Wiliwili
) has extraordinary variation in its flower colour, with orange, yellow, salmon, green and white all being found within natural populations. This striking color polymorphism is likely unique in the genus.
There are about 130 species
in the Genus Erythrina
, some of them well known, as they are used widely in the tropics and subtropics as street and park trees, especially in drier areas. Some, such as the bucares of Venezuela, are used as shade trees for coffee or cacao crops. They grow up to 30 meters in height.
All species of Erythrina have bean-like seed pods, except E. sykesii which is sterile. The seeds of over 40 of the species contain alkaloids, and some of the Amazonian species are used for medicinal and other purposes by indigenous peoples.
Erythrina species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Endoclita damor, Hypercompe eridanus and Hypercompe icasia.
The Cockspur coral tree (E. crista-galli) is the national flower of Argentina.
The Costal coral tree (E. caffra) is the official city tree of Los Angeles, California (where it is referred to simply as the "coral tree").