February 2, 2013

Erythrina Indica – Coral Tree


The Erythrina Indica tree outside my house is currently in bloom and looks glorious. Erythrina Indica (Indian Coral Tree; Tamil = Kalyana Murungai) is a species of the genus Erythrina which contains approximately a hundred trees and shrubs. Erythrina is from the Greek word erythros, meaning red in allusion to the colour of the bloom and Indica to its country of origin. This tree which is commonly found throughout Tiruvannamalai District, is cultivated as a support for various climbing plants (particularly the betel leaf). As it is also an excellent nitrogen fixer, the Erythrina Indica is often planted in fields to improve yield.



Most resplendently adorned tree


The leaves of this tree fall once a year and is followed by the blooming of beautiful scarlet blossoms. This tree will now attract a multitude of bird visitors to its wonderful coloured leaves. Salim Ali in his, “the Book of Indian Birds,” positively identifies the Erythrina Indica as a tree with its seeds and brightly coloured leaves, that is strongly favoured by birds. When in bloom, the tree's scarlet red flowers attracts; crows, mynas, babblers, starlings and green parrots to feed upon the nectar inside the flower and thereby pollinate the tree. To view Salim Ali’s list of Indian trees favoured by birds, go to this link here


Wonderfully vivid scarlet flowers


This highly valued ornamental tree has been described as one of the gems of the floral world. It grows along the coastal and inland districts in deciduous forests. The Indian Coral Tree can reach sixty feet height and spread twenty feet. It has stout branches armed with black tiger's claw spine and curved prickles on its long leaf stalks. Though the timber of the tree is light and soft, it is durable when heavy woods are deemed unsuitable. 


Asian Pied Starling feeding on the flower



The Coral Tree bloom -- A bird's nectar


All Erythrina species contain 'Erythrina alkaloids', which include erythrane, erythroidine and coralline. These alkaloids are found in the whole plant, but especially in the seeds. In small doses the seeds cause sedation, relaxation (especially of the muscles) and if taken before bedtime a long and deep sleep. In higher doses (more than a quarter seed) the effects become exponentially stronger and unpredictable. The seeds are usually too potent for accurate dosing, but dried flowers or dried leaves are suitable for teas or smoking mixes. 


Tree with draped Bougainvillea


The leaves are laxative, diuretic, anthelmintic and are able to induce milk secretion in a new mother. The trees’ leaves are also employed in the treatment of inflammatory swellings of lymph nodes, especially in the groins and armpits. The bark of the Erythrina Indica is used for fever, hepatosis, malaria, rheumatism, toothache, the treatment of epilepsy, and boils and fractures. One can also eat new leaves in curries and the adult leaves can make very useful cattle fodder. 


 Coral Tree hidden by bushes


A strong scented dye can be obtained from the flowers of this tree. Mythology reports that the God, Lord Krishna stole the flowers of the Coral Tree from Lord Indra’s garden. 


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information about the Coral Tree. I am going to plant some on my farm here in Australia.

Meenakshi Ammal said...

This tree, when in bloom, is a magnet to a large variety of bird species. You are going to love having it on your farm. Visually its a beautiful tree with its bright and brilliant scarlet flowers. Good luck.

I have a very handsome Coral Tree in a huge pot which is yearning to be planted in the ground. So hope that happens very soon.

One of my favourite trees is the upside down jasmine tree. I will try and write about it soon. Have two saplings of this tree in pots right now . . . which will be planted into the ground at the right time.

When this tree is in bloom, the scent is so overpoweringly sweet its almost intoxicating. You can smell it from a 100 yards away. Just lovely.