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Useful Tropical Plants

Erythrina americana

Mill.

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Corallodendron americanum (Mill.) Kuntze

Erythrina carnea Aiton

Erythrina coralloides DC.

Erythrina enneandra DC.

Erythrina fulgens Lois.

Common Name:

Erythrina americana
Inflorescence
Photograph by: Rigoberto Vicente Castro
Creative Commons License
Erythrina americana Erythrina americana Erythrina americana Erythrina americana

General Information

Erythrina americana is a spiny, deciduous shrub or tree growing up to 9 metres tall[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
]. The plant flowers as the new leaves are opening.
The tree is often used locally as a source of food and medicine. It is also grown for medicinal purposes, as wel as to provide shade for cocoa and coffee, as a support tree, as a live fence, and as an ornamental in gardens[
317
Title
Mansfeld's Database of Agricultural and Horticultural Plants
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:3:4292127278597336
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Terse details of a huge range of useful plants.
,
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
].

Known Hazards

All Erythrina species contain greater or lesser amounts of toxic alkaloids - these can be found in all parts of the plant but are usually most concentrated in the seeds. Concentrations vary from species to species, in some it is low enough that the plant is safely used as a food. In many, the alkaloids are utilized for their medicinal effects. We have no specific information on the concentration of the alkaloids in this species, but care should be exercised in any use of the plant that involves ingestion. These alkaloids have a curare-like action (obtained from Strychnos species) and can cause paralysis and even death by respiratory failure[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Botanical References


Range

C. America - Belize, Guatemala, to southern N. America - Mexico.

Habitat

Thorn forest, probably on limestone.

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitDeciduous Tree
Height6.00 m
PollinatorsBirds, Bees
Self-fertileYes
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Ornamental, Wild

Cultivation Details


Erythrina species are tolerant of a range of soils, often tolerating poor fertility, but generally grow best in a sunny position in a moderately fertile, well-drained soil[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
All species in this genus are believed to be self-compatible. Their flowers are adapted to pollination by birds, though various insects can also cause fertilization. The various species of Erythrina can all, as far as is known, be intercrossed to produce fertile hybrids. Those species most closely related to each other cross fairly readily, but even species that are quite distant can hybridize[
310
Title
Plant Resources of Southeast Asia
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://proseanet.org/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Lots of information on the uses of the plants of SE Asia.
,
485
Title
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Vol 75
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden: Boston.
Year
1988
ISBN
 
Description
Contains, amongst other things, an article on the flora of Tanzania, a treatment of the genus Xyris and one for the Panamanian Boraginaceae. It can be downloaded from the internet.
].
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[
755
Title
Nodulation Plants in GRIN Taxonomy
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ars-grin.gov/~sbmljw/cgi-bin/taxnodul.pl?language=en
Publisher
United States Department of Agriculture
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An online database listing plants that have either positive or negative reports on root and stem nodulation with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
].

Edible Uses

The flowers are frequently eaten[
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
]. The petals and young inflorescences are fried and eaten, especially in tamales at Easter time[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
]. The succulent flowers of many species in this genus are often cooked and eaten as a vegetable or prepared as a salad[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].

A tea is made from the flowers[
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
].

Tender young leaves - cooked and used as greens[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

Medicinal

The flowers are sedative[
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
].

The seeds are considered laxative, diuretic, expectorant, anti-asthmatic and antimalarial[
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
]. They should be used with caution due to the presence of alkaloids[
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
].

The seeds contain isoquinoline alkaloids; of these, β-erythroidine and its more potent derivate dihydro-β-erythroidine were shown to possess curariform activity[
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
].

Several Mexican species are used medicinally - their roots are considered sudorific; their leaves are considered emmenagogue; a decoction of the flowers is used in treating chest affections; and the juice of the stems is applied to scorpion stings[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

The tree is grown to provide shade for cocoa and coffee trees[
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
]. It is also used as a support tree[
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
].
Even fairly large branches will root when placed in the ground - coupled with the plants spiny nature and tolerance of trimming, this makes it very useful as a live fence[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
,
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
].
Most Erythrina species are very easy to grow from cuttings, with even quite large branches striking well. In addition, they generally fix atmospheric nitrogen, have nutrient-rich leaves that make an excellent soil-enriching mulch, often have open crowns that do not overly restrict light, and are also often quite thorny and can provide impenetrable barriers to protect from unwelcome intrusions. Many species are therefore used as living fences to provide boundaries and livestock-proof hedges[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
,
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
The plant is cropped to provide material for green manure[
675
Title
Erythrina americana Miller ("colorín"; Fabaceae), a versatile resource from Mexico: a review.
Publication
 
Author
Garcia-Mateos R.; Soto-Hernandez M.; Vibrans H.
Publisher
Economic Botany Vol. 55 (3)
Year
2001
ISBN
 
Description
A review of the literature on Erythrina americana.
].

Other Uses

The bark of many species in this genus yields a yellow dye[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].

The handsome seeds of many species in this genus, usually of various shades of red, are strung as necklaces, and also used by children in games[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].

The wood is very soft and light and is used for corks, for carving small figures and images, and for various other purposes[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].
The wood of Erythrina species is generally greyish-white in colour, light in weight but strong, with a spongy texture and not very durable[
1309
Title
The Leguminosae; A Source Book of Characteristics, Uses and Nodulation
Publication
 
Author
Allen O.N.; Allen E.K.
Publisher
University of Wisconsin
Year
1981
ISBN
0-333-32221-5
Description
An amazing and comprehensive work, giving a brief guide to the many genera of the family Fabaceae and also the principle uses of the genus.
].

Propagation

Like many species within the family Fabaceae, once they have been dried for storage the seeds of this species may benefit from scarification before sowing in order to speed up and improve germination. This can usually be done by pouring a small amount of nearly boiling water on the seeds (being careful not to cook them!) and then soaking them for 12 - 24 hours in warm water. By this time they should have imbibed moisture and swollen - if they have not, then carefully make a nick in the seedcoat (being careful not to damage the embryo) and soak for a further 12 hours before sowing[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].
Cuttings - even quite large branches root easily in the open ground[
411
Title
Trees and Shrubs of Mexico
Publication
Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Vol 23
Author
Standley P.C.
Publisher
Smithsonian Institution; Washington
Year
1926
ISBN
 
Description
Although dated, it contains a wealth of information on the trees and shrubs of Mexico, including many of their uses. It can be downloaded from the Internet.
].
Cite as: Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern. tropical.theferns.info. 2019-10-21. <tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Erythrina+americana>

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