Erythrina lysistemon is a deciduous tree with an open but sparse roundish crown. This tree can reach a mature height of 6m when growing conditions are conducive. Its distribution stretches from Tanzania in the north to the Eastern Cape in the South. The Common coral tree can tolerate a wide range of attitudes and habitats.
Leaves of this tree are heart shaped with smooth margins. The bark is smooth on young branches becoming greenish pale grey-brown with maturity. Erythrina lysistemon flowers from June to October usually before new leaves appear. The flowers are bright red in colour and are carried in short, dense heads, about 9 cm long. These flowers produce plenty of nectar that attracts nectar feeding birds and insects which in turn attract insect feeding birds as well. The pods are like a ‘string of beads’ and enclose red and black seeds, which are used in jewellery making.The trunk is thick with pale green grey grooves and random spiny prickles. It often branches low down and the bark is dark grey to grey-brown with a smooth texture.
The trees shed their attractive autumn foliage to reveal a bare skeleton before the striking scarlet flowers cover the branches during winter to early spring. The rosette shaped flowers explode into brilliant red and add a subtropical touch through the cool winter months. The form and colour of these flowers are exquisite when used in floral arrangements.
Erythrina lysistemon is spectacular when in bloom and would make a wonderful avenue tree alternated with Dombeya rotundifolia, Plant Erythrina lysistemon in full sun or semi-shade. Plant in a protected spot where frost is experienced since it flowers on the previous season’s growth.
The Erythrina lysistemon shows definitive seasonality in its foliage, flowers and seeds and heralds in spring with a blaze of colour.