Herbs & Plants

Erythrina herbacea (Coral Bean)

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Botanical Name :Erythrina herbacea
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Erythrina
Species: E. herbacea
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Fabales

Synonyms: Erythrina arborea – Small.

Common Names :Coralbead, Coral Bean, Cherokee Bean, Red Cardinal or Cardinal Spear

Habitat :Erythrina herbacea is native to south-eastern N. AmericaNorth Carolina to Texas. It grows on  andy soils in hummocks, the coastal plain and pinelands.

Erythrina herbacea is a Perennial low shrub or small tree, reaching around 5 m (16 ft) in height in areas that do not kill it back by freezing; elsewhere it may only reach 1.2 m (3.9 ft). Stems are covered in curved spines. The leaves are yellowish-green, 15–20 cm (5.9–7.9 in) long and 6 cm (2.4 in) wide. The leaves are divided into three 2.5–8 cm (0.98–3.1 in) arrowhead-shaped leaflets. The bark is smooth and light gray. The tubular flowers are bright red and grow in long spikes, each flower being 4–6.5 cm (1.6–2.6 in) long; the tree blooms from April to July.It is hardy to zone 8 and is frost tender. It is in flower from July to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. They are followed by 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in) pods containing bright red seeds, from which the tree gets its name. Toxic alkaloids, including erysopine, erysothiopine, erysothiovine, erysovine, erythrinine, erythroresin, coralin, erythric acid, and hypaphorine, are found throughout the plant. These cause paralysis upon ingestion, much like curare.

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Coral Bean grows best in sandy soils and has moderate salt tolerance. It can be found in open woods, forest clearings, hammocks, and disturbed areas.

Requires a moderately fertile well-drained soil in a very sunny position[200]. Best if given the protection of an east, south or south-west facing wall. Becoming a tree in the south of its range, this species is shrubby or even herbaceous towards the limits of its northerly range. It is not very hardy outdoors in Britain though the rootstock can tolerate temperatures down to about -10°c provided the stem bases are thickly mulched with organic matter such as leaf litter or sawdust and covered with bracken. Alternatively, the roots can be lifted in the autumn and stored in a cool frost-free place, replanting in the spring. Plants take 3 – 4 years to flower from seed. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.

Seed – pre-soak for 12 hours in warm water and sow spring in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Overwinter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring or early summer. Heeled cuttings of young growth in the spring in a frame. Overwinter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring or early summer.

Edible Uses:
Edible Parts: Flowers; Leaves.

Flowers – cooked. An acceptable vegetable when boiled. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Young leaves – occasionally cooked and eaten[.

Medicinal Uses:

Antiemetic; Diuretic; Narcotic; Purgative; Tonic.

The plant is narcotic and purgative. A cold infusion of the root has been used to treat bowel pain in women. A decoction of the roots or berries has been used to treat nausea, constipation and blocked urination. A decoction of the ‘beans’ or inner bark has been used as a body rub and steam for numb, painful limbs and joints. A decoction of the leaves has been used as a general tonic.

Native American people had many medicinal uses for this plant, varying between nations and localities. Creek women used an infusion of the root for bowel pain; the Choctaw used a decoction of the leaves as a general tonic; the Seminole used an extract of the roots for digestive problems, and extracts of the seeds, or of the inner bark, as an external rub for rheumatic disorders.

Other Uses:
E. herbacea can be readily grown in gardens within its natural range. Although its use in gardens is not particularly common, it is popular among those who do grow it as a source of early season color, for its hardiness (USDA Zones 7-10), and because it attracts hummingbirds.

In Mexico, the seeds are used as a rat poison, while a fish poison is made from the bark and leaves

Known Hazards : The plant contains alkaloids that have powerful narcotic and purgative effects.  The seeds contain numerous toxic alkaloids, including erysodine and erysopine. They have an action similar to curare and have been used as a rat poison

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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