Erythrina erythrostachia Morr.
Erythrina hastifolia G.Bertol.
Erythrina hastifolia Bertol. f.
Erythrina humei E.Mey.
Erythrina princeps A.Dietr.
Erythrina raja Meisn.
Common Name: Dwarf Kaffirboom
Photograph by: T.Voekler
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Erythrina humeana is a prickly, perennial plant with stems that become more or less woody and persist. It usually grows around 120 - 150cm tall, but sometimes becomes more tree-like and grows up to 4 metres tall[
The plant is sometimes harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine. It is grown as an ornamental in gardens, valued especially for its small size and floral display[
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[
Southern Africa - southern Mozambique, eastern S. Africa.
Open grassland with scattered shrubs at elevations up to 100 metres[
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Erythrina humeana is native to the subtropical and tropical regions of southern east Africa, growing in sub-arid climates. Plants experience at least moderate frosts in their native range, but dislike high levels of rainfall[
]. The plant can resprout from its large, tuberous rootstock if cut back by frosts, and so can be grown in mild winter climates in drier parts of the warm temperate zone.
Requires a moderately fertile well-drained soil in a very sunny position[
]. Succeeds in dry soils[
]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[
Plants take 3 - 4 years to flower from seed[
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[
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[
The plant is narcotic and purgative[
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[
Species in this genus root very easily from cuttings, even large branches usually strike well in open ground[
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