|At a Glance|
|Height||up to 10m|
|SA Tree Number||245|
|Conservation Status||Not threathened|
Erythrina lysistemon is a lovely, small to medium-sized, deciduous tree with a spreading crown and brilliant red flowers. It is a handsome tree at any time of the year, and its dazzling flowers have made it one of the best known and widely grown South African trees.
The bark is smooth and dark gray to gray-brown and is not thickly corky. Short, hooked prickles are sparsely and randomly scattered on the trunk and branches. The leaves are trifoliolate (compound leaves with 3 leaflets), and each leaflet is large, usually up to 17 x 18 cm.
Erythrina lysistemon occurs in a wide range of altitudes and habitats from North West Province, Limpopo (formerly Northern Province), Gauteng, Mpumalanga, through to Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal, and down to about the Mbashe River Mouth in Eastern Cape. Further north in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Angola it occurs in small pockets. It grows in scrub forest, wooded kloofs, dry woodlands, dry savannah, koppie slopes and coastal dune bush and also in high rainfall areas.
Flower - Fruit
The flowers are a beautiful clear scarlet and are carried in short, dense heads, about 9 cm long, on long, thick stalks. The standard petal (the large uppermost petal) is long and narrow and encloses the other petals and the stamens. The flowers produce abundant nectar that attracts many nectar-feeding birds and insects, which attract the insect-feeding birds as well.
The fruit is a slender, black pod that can be 15 cm long and is sharply constricted between the seeds. The pod splits while still attached to the tree to release bright red 'lucky bean' seeds.
Erythrina lysistemon is not just a decorative tree, it is also an important component of the ecosystem, providing food and shelter for a variety of birds, animals and insects. Many birds and insects feed on the nectar. Vervet monkeys eat the flower buds. Bush pigs eat the roots, and birds such as barbets and woodpeckers nest in the trunks of dead trees, and swarms of bees often inhabit hollow trunks.
Quite common in the Kloof area where one can also find a number of other Erythrina species such as the Dwarf Coral Tree (Erythrina humeana) and the Broad-leaf Coral Tree (Erythrina latissima)
They have been regarded as royal trees, and were planted on the graves of Zulu chiefs. They were planted as living fences around kraals, homesteads and waterholes, and were one of the first wild trees to be planted in gardens in South Africa.
The genus name Erythrina comes from the Greek erythros meaning red, both the flowers and the seeds are bright red.