Tree of the week: Erythrina caffra – Coast coral tree – Kurkboom – Umsinsi

Loved for its warm red to scarlet-coloured flowers, Erythrina caffra is a hardy tree that tolerates wind, different types of soil and drought conditions. The Coast coral tree is a medium to large-sized deciduous tree whose size depends largely on the prevailing climate and soil conditions. It can reach a mature height of 12m when growing conditions are favourable. This tree is found growing naturally in sheltered coastal forests, wooded grassland and riverine or stream fringe forests in the warm coastal regions of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

The egg-shaped leaves of Erythrina caffra resemble those of Erythrina lysistemon, this makes it difficult to distinguish the two trees when not in flower. The grey rough textured bark is covered with numerous thorn-tipped knobs. The Coast coral tree starts flowering in winter and carries on throughout spring. After flowering, the fruit appears as black pod that ripens over a long-time during summer. The pods split while still attached to the tree, releasing the bright red bean seeds, marked on one side with a black spot.

Although E. caffra thrives in the warmer, frost-free regions of South Africa, its ability to go dormant in winter enables it to grow in frost prone areas as it can tolerate moderate frost once established. This tree is also ideal for street sides, large parks and reserves. It can also be grown as a specimen plant in the garden. The seeds of this tree are a source of food for birds.

Information sourced from Sun Gardens