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Red Cardinal Erythrina herbacea

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Erythrina arborea
Phonetic Spelling
er-ih-THREE-nah her-BAY-see-ah
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

This tropical herbal perennial shrub grows mainly in coastal areas and in sandy, open woodlands, clearings, and in naturalized areas. In cooler zones, it may freeze above ground in winter but will regrow in the spring. Its main attraction is coral-red flowers in a crescent moon shape which are attractive to hummingbirds. It grows well in loamy clay soils and is often used to add color to a garden area.

Coral bean is a low, glossy-leaved, thorny shrub, growing up to 6 ft. with many herbaceous, annual stems arising from the woody lower stem and perennial root. Three arrow-shaped leaflets, one leaf, each have a long stalk attaching to their stem.

Leaves fall in winter and before reappearing in spring, upright spikes of showy, tubular flowers appear on the bare branches. The bright-red flowers, up to 12 inches long in spike-like clusters, occur on the upper part of the stem. There are 5 united sepals and 5 petals 1 1/2-2 inches long, with the upper petal wrapped around the other 4. These are followed by a persisent legume pod containing several bright red beans. The pod is blackish, constricted between the seeds, and up to 8 1/2 inches long. The seeds are firmly attached to the pod by a sturdy 1/8-inch-long thread and will remain in place for months.

Seeds are poisonous to humans if eaten, and can especially be a problem for children due to their smaller size. Sensitivity to a toxin can vary by person characteristics and susceptibility and by plant season.  If propagating from the seeds, they should be collected in the fall and well fumigated and stored in a secure container, away from children. Scarify or scratch the outer coat of the seeds before planting in the spring.

Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#hummingbirds#red#tropical#showy flowers#poisonous#perennial#wildlife plant#showy#red flowers#nectar plant#winter interest#fall interest#coastal#glossy leaves#native garden#prickly#long bloom time#naturalizes#thorny#pollinator plant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#hummingbirds#red#tropical#showy flowers#poisonous#perennial#wildlife plant#showy#red flowers#nectar plant#winter interest#fall interest#coastal#glossy leaves#native garden#prickly#long bloom time#naturalizes#thorny#pollinator plant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Erythrina
    Species:
    herbacea
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Necklaces are made from the seeds though they should be kept away from children.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Mexico and southern USA
    Distribution:
    Southern and southeastern states
    Wildlife Value:
    Flowers attract hummingbirds.
    Edibility:
    Caution is encouraged in human use as an herb. Flowers and young leaves may be cooked and eaten, however, all parts of the plant have low toxicity. Symptoms mainly occur with ingestion of seeds. Symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea; prior to modern medicine concoctions from the plant were used to relieve constipation.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Appendage:
    Thorns
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    A persistent 8 1/2" long black bean pod constricted between red beans.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    asymmetrical petals
    fused petals
    Flower Description:
    Flowers appear before leaves in spring, are in an elongated terminal cluster, somewhat tube-shaped, and scarlet in color. Their bloom can be up to 12 inches long with 5 fused sepals and 5 petals. The upper petal wraps around the 4 other petals.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Prickly
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are alternate, scattered along the stem. Three leaflets form the leaf, which can be prickly underneath.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Theme:
    Pollinator Garden
    Attracts:
    Hummingbirds
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Children
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Vomiting, diarrhea
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Alkaloids and cyanogenic glycoside
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Seeds