Cresta de Gallo/Cockspur Coral tree/Erythrina crista-galli

{The plant contains alkaloids that have powerful narcotic and purgative effects. The seeds of all members of this genus are said to be poisonous.}

Erythrina crista-galli is a flowering tree in the family Fabaceae, native to Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay. It is widely planted as a street or garden tree in other countries, most notably in California (in the United States). In English it is often known as the Cockspur Coral Tree. The common name comes from the similarity between the comb of a rooster and the broad crimson petals in the flower. The tree’s flower is the national flower of Argentina and Uruguay. It is also the official city tree of Los Angeles, California (where it is referred to simply as “the coral tree”). This species characteristically grows wild in gallery forest ecosystems along water courses, as well as in swamps and wetlands. In urban settings, it is often planted in parks for its bright red flowers. Erythrina crista-galli is one of the hardiest of the coral trees. It has survived temperatures down into the low 20’s and come back from even colder temperatures from the roots.

Cockspur coral tree is a deciduous shrub or small tree to 6 m high, small prickles on trunk and branches; glabrous. The root is a taproot with nodules produced by nitrogen fixing bacteria. The bacteria live in symbiosis with the tree, facilitating the tree’s absorption of nitrogen in return for organic substances which the bacteria need. The leaves are comprised of 3 dark green leaflets, 3 to 6 inches long by 1 1/2 inch wide that have curved thorns on the veins on the backside and petioles. The 2 inch long by 1 inch wide flowers, usually a scarlet-red but sometimes pink or red-purple, are borne singly or in groups of 2-3 in loose terminal racemes to 2 feet long from spring to summer. The flowers are rich in nectar and get visited by insects, which usually have to crawl underneath the carina and thus pollinate the flowers. The tree’s fruit is monocarpic and dry, of the legume type, and no more than a few centimeters in length. The chestnut-brown seeds are cylindrical in form and are arranged sparsely throughout the seedpod’s interior. The seed germ contains hypogeous cotyledons – the seeds stay underground upon germination.

When coral trees are not in bloom there isn’t much about them to make you look twice but when in bloom the flowers of bright red and orange rally are quite spectacular! There are several varieties of Erythrina, mostly from the East and West Indies, Brazil, and South America – the gum-lac of commerce being obtained from one of the species. The E. Crista-galli, however, is the best known, and, in fact, except in botanical collections, almost the only variety one meets with in general cultivation. Being a member of the legume family, the tree is a nitrogen-fixer. Cresta de Gallo was declared the national flower of Argentina by the country’s executive power on December 23 of 1942.

Legend has it that the tree was a South American princess who while fighting to defend her people was captured by the enemy and set ablaze at night to die. In the morning her people found only a tree with red flowers as lovely as the princess. The legend suggests one common name, flame trees. The tree’s assortment of common names refers to particular characteristics: ‘Cry Baby’ and ‘Christ’s Tears’ point to droplets of nectar dripping from flowers. The flattened lower lip of the flower is shaped like a ‘Fireman’s Cap.’ Thorns on the stems coupled with a flower resembling the red crested comb of a rooster gave rise to ‘Cockspur Coral Bean.’ Even the most beautiful of plants can be deadly. All parts of the coral tree are toxic to humans if ingested. The beanlike pods that follow the flowers contain highly toxic seeds.
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About zoom50

“It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease”
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8 Responses to Cresta de Gallo/Cockspur Coral tree/Erythrina crista-galli

  1. Sora says:

    Looks amazing!
    Coral tree can really be striking. I wish I could have one.

    • Zoom says:

      Isn’t it gorgeous? I’ve always been fascinated with the blossoms. Is there anything else to say?!
      Thank you for your visit. 🙂

  2. Aussie Emjay says:

    Stunningly beautiful flowers! I love the legend.

    • Zoom says:

      Thanks for your comment, Emjay.
      We had a large Cresta de Gallo tree growing in the back yard of the house where I grew up.They look amazing in full bloom! 🙂

  3. Michaud Anselme says:

    Très joli cet arbremais je recherche les variétés a fleurs blanche ( leucochlora ) orange et bicolore ( rose et blanc ) faire offre

  4. Pingback: CEIBO (Erythrina crista-galli) | Flora y Fauna PUCP

  5. Pingback: CEIBO (Erythrina crista-galli) |

  6. Maddy says:

    Excellent post, thanks. Attempts to grow gallo from seed failed. I still have a few seeds. What would be a good procedure?

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