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Coral Bean

Erythrina herbacea

  • ​Common name: Coral Bean, Cherokee Bean, Mamou plant, Red cardinal
  • Scientific name: Erythrina herbacea
  • Family name: Fabaceae
  • Origin: Southeast United States
  • Height: 3-15 ft
  • Width: 2-10 ft
  • Growth: Moderate to fast
  • Zone: 8-11
  • Light needs: Full sun to partial shade
  • Salt tolerance: High
  • Soil/pH/Texture: Grows best in fertile, well-drained, sandy soil. Can grow in acidic to slightly alkaline soil (pH 5.4-7.6)
  • Moisture: Water regularly until established. Once established, Coral Bean needs very little irrigation – only water when conditions are very dry.
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Pests/Diseases: No pests and diseases of major concern
  • Growing conditions: Grows best in a somewhat sunny area with fertile, well drained soil. How tall Coral Bean grows depends on the climate – the warmer the climate, the taller it will grow, so if it is being planted in warm areas it should be given plenty of room to grow. It should be fertilized once or twice a year to keep the plant in its best health.
  • Characteristics: Leaves are alternately arranged, semi-deciduous, and compound, composed of three pointed leaflets. The leaves are dull green on top and pale green underneath. The trunk and branches have small thorns, and multiple trunks may be present when the plant in grown in warmer conditions. Flowers are tubular and bright red, in grow in clusters on 2-foot-long terminal racemes. Seed pods are brown and dry with bulbous seed pouches; the seeds themselves are a bright, striking red. The seeds and most of the plant are mildly poisonous.
  • Propagation: By seed and by cuttings
  • Wildlife: Flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators. Its foliage serves as a refuge for small animals.
  • Facts: Historically, Coral Bean has been used for its medicinal properties. Women of the Creek tribe used a root infusion for bowel pain, the Choctaw used an extract of the leaves as a general tonic, and the Seminole used extracts of the roots, seeds, and inner bark for digestive problems and rheumatic disorders. In Mexico, the seeds are used as a rat poison. In many Central American countries, the flowers are used in traditional cuisine.
  • Designer considerations: Mixed borders, accent or specimen plant. Its flowers add highlights and make it a great choice for butterfly gardens. 

Coral Bean

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