common coral tree

Erythrina x sykesii
habit in early spring (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
younger leaves (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
Common coral tree
close-up of bark on main trunk (Photo: Sheldon  Navie)
base of trunks (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
South African coral tree (Erythrina caffra), a similar species with  reddish-orange flower clusters (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
flower clusters (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon), is one of the  parents of common coral tree (Erythrina x sykesii). It is very  similar, but unlike the hybrid it develops fruit (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
Tree
Alternate
Simple
Red
Green

A broadly spreading tree growing up to 6 m or more tall. Its stems are sparsely covered in sharp thorns. Its leaves are divided into three elongated leaflets. Its scarlet red to dark red pea-shaped flowers are borne in large elongated clusters at the tips of the branches. Its elongated, dark brown, pods are slightly constricted between each of the shiny mottled seeds.

Common names 
Also known as: Indian coral tree, Thorny coral tree,
Family 
Fabaceae
Deciduous 
Yes
Flowering time 
NA- rhizome and fragment
Native/Exotic 
Native
Origin 
A hybrid of horticultural origin, that was probably developed in Australia or New Zealand.
Notifiable 
No
Council declaration 
SIL – Special Investigation List
Known distribution 

Occasionally naturalised in the coastal districts of southern and eastern Australia. It has been recorded from the coastal districts of New South Wales, near Perth in south-western Western Australia, in south-eastern and northern Queensland, and on Lord Howe Island.

Habitat 

This species is is most often naturalised along waterways and in other moist habitats (i.e. swamps and wetlands).

Habit 

An upright (i.e. erect) tree with a broadly spreading habit that loses its leaves during winter when growing in cooler regions (i.e. it is deciduous). It usually grows 5-8 m tall, but may occasionally reach up to 10 m or more in height.

Impact and control methods 

Common coral tree (Erythrina × sykesii) has spread from garden and street plantings and become an environmental weed in the coastal regions of New South Wales. It appears on several local and regional weed lists in this state (e.g. in the wider Sydney and Blue Mountains region and in the North Coast and South Coast regions). Common coral tree (Erythrina × sykesii) has also recently become naturalised in south-eastern Queensland, and is a potential or emerging environmental weed in the region.

This species does not produce viable seed and only propagates vegetatively, via stem segments and suckers. Logs, branches and even twigs will grow into new plants and they break easily, thereby aiding its spread during floods. The spread of common coral tree (Erythrina × sykesii) is often aided by the dumping of garden waste in bushland areas. It is primarily a problem along creeks and rivers, but will also grow in disturbed natural vegetation and open woodlands. In New South Wales it has been reported to invade conservation areas (e.g. Eurobodalla National Park and Murramarang National Park), replace native riparian vegetation, block the flow of creeks, increase creek bank erosion, and cause other trees to fall over.

Stem and leaves 

Common coral tree (Erythrina × sykesii) has leaves with broad leaflets that are entire and often more than 7 cm long and wide.

Flowers and fruits 

Its scarlet red or reddish-orange flowers (30-50 mm long) are densely and tightly clustered in short inflorescences and usually appear before the leaves in spring.

This species does not produce viable seed and only propagates vegetatively, via stem segments and suckers. Logs, branches and even twigs will grow into new plants and they break easily, thereby aiding its spread during floods.

Reproduction and dispersal 

This species does not produce viable seed and only propagates vegetatively, via stem segments and suckers. Logs, branches and even twigs will grow into new plants and they break easily, thereby aiding its spread during floods. The spread of common coral tree (Erythrina × sykesii) is often aided by the dumping of garden waste in bushland areas.

Similar species 

Several other species of coral trees (Erythrina spp.), some of which are native, can be confused with common coral tree (Erythrina × sykesii). The most common of these are the weedy cockspur coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli ) and the native bat's wing coral tree (Erythrina vespertilio). These species can be distinguished by the following differences:

■common coral tree (Erythrina × sykesii) has leaves with broad leaflets that are entire and often more than 7 cm long and wide. Its scarlet red or reddish-orange flowers (30-50 mm long) are densely and tightly clustered in short inflorescences and usually appear before the leaves in spring.

■ cockspur coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli ) has leaves with relatively slender oval (i.e. elliptic) or egg-shaped (i.e. ovate) leaflets that are entire and usually less than 7 cm long and wide. Its scarlet red or dark red flowers (40-50 mm long) are loosely clustered in elongated inflorescences and appear with the leaves in spring.

■ bat's wing coral tree (Erythrina vespertilio) has very broad leaflets that are usually two or three-lobed and up to 12 cm wide. Its scarlet red or dark red flowers (up to 30 mm long) are loosely clustered in elongated inflorescences (10-30 cm long) and appear with the leaves in spring.