Coral Tree flowers

Coral Tree

Common name Cockspur Coral Tree
Botanical name Erythrina crista-galli
Family Fabaceae
Natural range South America
Mature height to 8m
Form Broad, dense crown
Likes Spreading outside of its range
Dislikes Over-watering
Where to plant Warmer climates
Known for Attractive flowers

Casting a mesmerizing spell with their vibrant presence, Coral Trees, or Cockspur Coral Trees as they’re commonly known, and Erythrina crista-galli in botanical terms, are an aesthetic addition to gardens and landscapes. With their origins tracing back to South America, these members of the Fabaceae family grow magnificently under the sun and reach a mature height of about 8 meters, displaying a dense, broad crown.

What’s the Connection with Australia?

Interestingly, the appeal of these trees extends well beyond their native heritage and distinctive looks. They strike a note of familiarity with Australians, as they bear a striking resemblance to the much-admired Flame Tree, or the Erythrina x sykesii. This sibling species is easily recognizable with its thorny appearance and bright red blooms. Discover more about the Flame Tree here.

Decoding the Red-Hued Mystery of Coral Tree Blooms

The colour red often represents passion, and Coral Trees symbolize this beautifully with their striking, scarlet flowers. This fiery hue has granted them their common name. Some even compare the vivid shade and shape of the flowers to a rooster’s wattles and leg spurs.

One remarkable fact is that the Coral Tree family, with approximately 112 species spread across the globe, features many members sharing this signature trait. This proliferation of radiant red blooms creates a breathtaking visual spectacle, enhancing the appeal of Coral Trees in gardens.

The Arborist’s Tool: Pollarding

A well-practiced tradition in arboriculture is pollarding, a unique technique of pruning that ensures the aesthetic upkeep and health of trees like the Coral Tree. Pollarding involves cutting back a tree’s annual growth to the same point every year, effectively preventing the tree from outgrowing its space.

The Art and Science of Pollarding: A Personal Story

My journey into the art of pollarding started in my early days as an apprentice arborist. I remember a Cockspur Coral tree that underwent pollarding in the yard of an Italian widow. The tree experienced annual pruning sessions, made even more delightful by the sweet allure of Italian donuts. This tradition not only enriched our learning but also helped maintain the beauty of her garden throughout the year. Read more about the art of pollarding here.

Why Prune Coral Trees?

Pruning serves a dual purpose for Coral Trees. It not only regulates the size but also paves the way for an annual display of vibrant red flowers. This tree adapts remarkably well to pollarding, and the yearly trim stimulates flowering, promising an awe-inspiring floral exhibition each year.

Beware of the Invasive Nature

However, we should remember to monitor its invasive nature. As with many introduced species, the Coral Tree can exhibit ‘weedy’ tendencies in suitable conditions. Despite their beauty, the floating flowers of Coral Trees have unfortunately earned them the label of an invasive weed along waterways. So, while we relish the grandeur of these trees in our gardens, we must also keep a close watch on their spread.

Coral Trees: A Gardener’s Delight with Caution

In essence, the Cockspur Coral Tree, with its alluring flowers and majestic crown, is a delightful spectacle. By comprehending and employing techniques such as pollarding, we can ensure its allure remains intact, its growth stays manageable, and it continues to be a valued feature in our gardens. As we embrace our love for gardening, it’s equally crucial to respect nature’s balance and the inherent tendencies of these magnificent trees.

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