Erythrina crista-galli

Common Name: cry-baby tree 
Type: Tree
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Central South America
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 15.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to October
Bloom Description: Crimson red
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Street Tree
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy
Other: Thorns

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zone 9 where it grows well in moist, sandy, well-drained soils in full sun. Root hardy to USDA Zone 8 (dies back to roots in winter but comes back in spring). Needs a nearly frostless area for best growth.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Erythrina crista-galli, commonly called coral tree or cockspur coral tree, is a spiny South American tree with compound pinnate leaves and crimson flowers. It typically grows as a small tree to 15-20' tall, but may occasionally reach 30' in optimum conditions. It also sometimes grows as an upright shrub. It is native to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. Trees often develop gnarled trunks with age. Papilionate crimson flowers in loose terminal drooping racemes (to 2' long) bloom in early spring. Up to two additional bloom periods may occur over the period of summer to early fall depending on growing environment. Flowers are followed by seed pods (to 3-8" long) which ripen to brown. Alternate, compound pinnate, dark green leaves, with each leaf having three broad-elliptic leaflets (each to 4-6" long), are attractive throughout the growing season.

In the U.S., this tree performs well in the Deep South (Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana), Texas, southern California and Hawaii. It is the National Tree of Argentina, and its flower is the national flower of Argentina and Uruguay. Coral tree is the official tree of the City of Los Angeles, California.

Genus name comes from the Greek word erythros meaning red. A reference to the color of the flower.

Specific epithet means cock's comb in reference to the flowers resembling the comb of a rooster.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Watch for twig borers, thrips and nematodes.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, this is an excellent ornamental flowering tree or shade tree for homes and parks. It is also commonly grown as a street tree. Xeriscape plantings in southern Florida. Potted greenhouse plant where not winter hardy.