Common Name: Prickly Cardinal
Erythrina zeyheri is a perennial plant growing from a large, woody base that is mainly underground, with short woody stems above ground. It produces decumbent to semi-erect new shoots 30 - 60cm tall each year, these dying back to the woody stems each winter[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a medicine and source of materials. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental in gaerdens[
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 - Zimbabwe, Swaziland, eastern S. Africa.
Found in grassland, but more frequently in moist vleis with clay soils, sometimes in sandy soils[
]. The plant usually grows in colonies[
]. Found in woodland and lightly wooded grassland.
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Erythrina zeyheri is found from the tropical regions of Zimbabwe to the warm temperate zone of eastern S. Africa. It experiences frosts in at least part of its range and should be able to be grown in warm temperate regions, especially if given the protection of being grown against the sunny side of a wall, and the stem bases are protected with a thick mulch of organic matter such as leaf litter or sawdust and then covered with bracken[
Requires a moderately fertile well-drained soil in a very sunny position[
]. Best if given the protection of an east, south or south-west facing wall[
]. Established plants are drought tolerant[
Plants are not very hardy outdoors in Britain though they experience at least moderate frosts in their native range and would be worthwhile trying outdoors in the very mildest areas of this country[
]. The The top growth will be killed by the frost but new growth from the rootstock will flower in late summer[
The plant has an enormous underground rootstock in which it stores food[
]. New shoots form every year from the underground stems and then die down in winter[
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[
The plant is narcotic and purgative[
In the colonial days, asthma sufferers smoked the underground portion of this plant[
The red seeds are used to make necklaces, bracelets etc[
Seed - germinates in 5 - 15 days[299.
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[
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