Plant Profile: Coral Bean, Erythrina herbacea
This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Botany students at Jacksonville University.
Specific epithet: herbacea
Erythrina herbacea, also known as the coralbean, Cherokee bean and the cardinal spear, is a member of the Fabaceae or pea family. It is found throughout the state, growing in hardwood hammocks, open sandy woods, and even near saltwater.
The coralbean can grow to 3-4 ft tall and has prickly stems. To maximize exposure to sunlight for photosynthesis, they can change their orientation to the light, which is known as heliotropism.
The flowers are scarlet red and bloom in the months of May to June, attracting hummingbirds with sweet delicious nectar. Coralbean takes its name from the bright red seeds found inside each pod. The large seeds are eaten by birds and other animals in late summer and autumn. Not everyone responds well to consumption of these seeds. They can cause vomiting and diarrhea when eaten by humans, and have been used in Mexico to poison rats!
Interested in growing your own (and of course, being careful that children, pets, and others do not snack on the seeds)? The Florida Association of Native Nurseries can tell you where to buy coralbean in your area.
- Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers. 2001-2012. www.fireflyforest.com/flowers/1/erythrina-flabelliformis-coralbean/
- Florida Forest Plants: Coralbean (Erythrina herbacea). 2001-2004. www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/Coralbean/coralbea.htm.
- Southwestern Coral Bean. 2002. wc.pima.edu/bfiero/tucsonecology/plants/shrubs_scbe.htm
- Erythrina herbacea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_bean
- Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2008. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants (http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/). [S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa.
Figure 1. http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Photo.aspx?id=807
Figure 2. http://florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Photo.aspx?id=8172