Erythrina humeana

Water Needs

dry; moderate water wise

Erythrina humeana
Tree small; Shrub medium; Shrub large
Dwarf Coral Tree

2 - 3 m

Size

Light Conditions

sun

Frost

moderate; hardy

Flowers

red summer

sun; wall; rockery; wildlife birds insects butterflies butterfly host; container; sandy soils; dry soils; focal point; slope bank; narrow spaces; clay soils;

Garden Situation

Habitat

grassland; bushveld; coastal eastern cape; coastal kzn; rocky places; urban streets

Region

thicket; subtropical east coast; Highveld; bushveld savanna

Rain Season

summer

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Description

The deciduous Dwarf Coral Tree is a beautiful medium to large shrub or small tree of only 2 - 3 m, small enough for a small sunny garden. For the tiny complex gardener battling to find a striking small tree as a focal point, this is a winner and yet it is essential too in flower beds, grasslands and wild areas within a large garden space. While the larger members of this family flower at the start of spring, this eye catching little tree flowers through summer. This small tree grows to full height within 2 years. The leaves have the typical Coral tree shape, with hook thorns on the leafstalks and stems and grey bark that contrasts well with the bright green leaves and rich coral red flowers. The flowers are beautiful, gently curved red tubes, full of nectar and are a favourite with many birds and insects, especially the sunbird. Showcasing the ingenuity of Nature, the shape of these flower tubes mimics the shape of the Sunbirds beaks, making it very easy for the birds to access the nectar. A 2 m height brings the flowers close for viewing, unlike the large Erythrina trees. Flowers open sequentially, extending bird and insect visits – and their vibrant display - over a few weeks. The seed pods are long, thin and brown, slightly twisted with knobbly; these tiny cases each carry the familiar bright red and black-eyed lucky bean seed. These attract the seed eating birds. Seeds germinate quite readily if soaked overnight in hot water. The Erythrina humeana occurs naturally in grasslands and on the edges of bush clumps, so is a perfect choice for the home grassland and rockery areas. It is water-wise and copes with only a moderate frost, so is best positioned in a sunny north facing bed in frosty areas. The Dwarf Coral Tree prefers full sun and freely draining soils. Pruning every few years can encourage new growth and the old bits of branch you have removed can be used as truncheons, a very good method by which to propagate the Erythrina family. Plant the truncheons upright in sand and they should soon root. The narrow, slender form fits into the smallest corner or even a narrow garden bed alongside the house or boundary wall. It is a great choice to plant alongside a small water feature, offering both food and water habitats for the birds, mixed in with a variety of grasses, reeds and groundcovers (it looks particularly good with the purple Trailing Mauve Daisy, Dimorphotheca jucunda, trailing beneath it. Create a bird friendly thicket by planting the Dwarf Coral Tree amongst other bird attractions: Hoslundia opposita, the Orange Bird-berry, Leonotis leonurus, our local wild dagga plant, grass aloes (Aloe cooperi) and the larger shrub Aloe, Aloe arborescens. Lichen is often found on the trunk and branches of this tree which doesn’t harm the tree at all and can add texture and interest to the tree trunk.

Erythrina humeana
Erythrina humeana