Plant Profile: Coral Bean, Erythrina herbacea

By Dakota Nielsen and Ciarra Slater*

This post is one of a series from professor Nisse Goldberg's Botany students at Jacksonville University.

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magniolophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Erythrina
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.


*Edited and formatted by Laurie Sheldon.


Anonymous said…
I just bought a coral bean plant a couple of months ago and it seemed to be doing well. There were two stalks, the taller one and then an offshoot coming from the bottom. When I went out the other morning I noticed that something had stripped all of the leaves from the taller stalk. Nothing seems to be on the plant and nothing has gone after the lower stalk yet. Any idea what it could be and how I deter it?
The Jolly Bloggers said…
I wish I could give you a definitive answer. Do you have any herbivorous mammals roaming around (deer, etc)?

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