41 Erythrina herbaceaCommon Names: coral bean, Cherokee bean Family: Fabaceae (bean Family)
Cherokee bean is a showy semi-herbaceous member of the bean (Leguminosae/Fabaceae) family. Within most of its range coralbean, as it is also commonly called, produces herbaceous stems from a woody base that are typically about 3 ft (0.9 m) in height but sometimes more. In areas that experience freezes the stems are killed back in winter but in frostfree areas the plant will form woody stems and may grow to 16 ft (5 m) in height. This South Florida form is sometimes referred to as E. arborea , a name that most authorities now consider a synonym.
Coral bean is deciduous and has interesting compound leaves made up of three leaflets that are uniquely shaped with pointed tips and a bulge in the middle. In late spring and early summer showy scarlet blossoms appear. These long flattened tubes are about 2 in (5.1 cm) long by approximately 1/8 in (0.3 cm) in diameter. They are arranged in clusters at the stem tips and appear custom designed for hummingbird beaks. Flowers are followed by large pods that split open to reveal bright red seeds in late summer and fall.
Erythrina herbacea is native to hardwood hammocks in the deep southern states of the eastern United States.
CultureLight: Broken shade is best. Moisture: Provide adequate moisture but coralbean is somewhat drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10/span>. Propagation: Seeds.
Coralbean is useful for bringing bright highlights to woodland plantings in low maintenance landscaping. It makes a showy addition to the perennial garden and attracts both hummingbirds and butterflies.
This legume requires little fertilizer and care once established, and provides a transitory splash of red when used against a backdrop of dark tree trunks in a natural landscape. It provides maximum color while blooming from May to June, and again in autumn when it displays its bright red seeds.
There are hundreds of mostly tropical species in the genus Erythrina. The coral tree or tiger claw, Erythrina variegata is a spectacular tropical tree that is grown in South Florida.
Keep this plant away from young children. The shiny bright red seeds are very tempting and very toxic.
Steve Christman 5/10/97; updated 5/27/04