Family: Papilionaceae
Common Name: Coral Tree

Grown for their brilliantly coloured red or orange flowers, this genus of deciduous or semi-evergreen trees, shrubs and perennials, which sometimes grow to only 2 m (6 ft) and at other times to heights of 20 m (65 ft), is native to tropical and warm temperate parts of Asia, Africa and America, with two species from Australia. Used as an ornamental or shade tree, in some of its native environments the flowers are cooked and eaten, though some species are poisonous. In frost-prone climates, grow in a cool to intermediate greenhouse or conserva­tory. They flower in the summer and often through to autumn.


E. acanthocarpa, tambookie thorn tree, from southern Africa, is one of the smaller species, growing up to 2.5 m (8 ft). The stiff branches and seed pods are very thorny, but the spectacular clusters of red and yellow flowers make it worth growing. This deciduous shrub does quite well in cooler gardens.

E. caffra, South African coral tree, is a tall, semi-ever­green tree, to 18 m (60 ft). It has compound leaves, with three club-shaped leaflets, and clusters of brilliant scarlet flowers that bloom from winter through to spring. It is often seen as a shade tree in South Africa.

E. crista-galli, cock's comb or coral tree, zone 9, from South America, is the best for warm temperate cli­mates. In cool climates, it grows as a bushy perennial and the stems are cut down annually in early spring. It has spiny stems and leaves and dark red flowers in summer and autumn.

E. x sykesii, Indian coral tree, occurs naturally from eastern Africa to India. This deciduous tree grows 6-15 m (20-50 ft) and produces dense clusters of rich scarlet flowers on its spiny branches in winter. It has compound leaves with large, oval leaflets.

E. vespertilio, bat's wing coral tree, is an Australian native from inland, open, subtropical forests, ranging in height from 6 in to 20 m (20-65 ft). It has a thick trunk, thorny branches and slender, stalked leaves, the triangular-shaped leaflets like open bat wings. Suitable for inland and coast, it has long, drooping clusters of red blooms.


In the greenhouse, grow in pots of soil-based potting compost and provide maxi-mum light. Outdoors grow in full sun and well-drained soil. Propagate from seed sown in spring. Germinate at 24°C (75°F). Take semi-ripe cuttings in summer.


Zone 10 for most species.

Erysimum      Erythronium