Erythrina lysistemon

Botanical name

Erythrina lysistemon

Other names

(Common) coral tree; lucky-bean tree; koraalboom (Afrikaans); mophete (Tswana); umsinsi (Zulu)




A small to medium deciduous tree of about 6 m with a spreading crown; in ideal circumstances it may sometimes reach 12 m in height

Description of stem

Smooth, light grey to yellow-brown varying colouring; scattered thorns on younger branches occasionally persist; the wood is soft

Description of leaves

Trifoliolate, up to 17 cm, on a long petiole that often has scattered hooked spines which also occur on the leaf midrib and larger veins; apex narrowly attenuate, base broadly tapering, margin entire

Description of flowers

Dense heads of narrow, outwardly curved, bright red or scarlet flowers hanging from long sturdy stalks and supported by a sturdy greyish calyx; flowering during late winter and spring before the leaves appear, sometimes heralding crop planting season to indigenous tribes; one petal on each flower envelopes the rest; rich in nectar, popular with nectarivore bird species

Desciption of seed/fruit

A long narrow seed pod of up to 15 cm that soon turns grey, brown or black and has marked constrictions between the individual orange to red coloured seeds; occuring in summer

Description of roots



There is unconfirmed mention of a light pink flowering variety; E. sykesii found in Australia may be a hybrid of E. lysistemon and E. coralloides (

Propagation and cultivation

Grown from seed, cuttings or truncheons; seed said to germinate better if scarified (surface scratched, weakened by applying sandpaper); fast-growing, somewhat drought tolerant, but thrives in good summer rain and well-drained soil


Grows well in soil of varying acidity


A common and popular garden tree, frequently planted in public parks and along streets; the bark is used in preparation of an infusion used to ease childbirth; the bark or crushed leaves used in treating open sores and arthritis; the plant is also used in treating ear ache; the seeds contain a substance that prevents blood-clotting and may have value in treating thrombosis; inconclusive research has been reported on an extract having been used in treating menopausal problems (; browsed by several game species; the seeds are used as lucky charms or beads for necklaces

Ecological rarity


Pests and diseases

Prone to spider mites


Similar to E. caffra that grows in the eastern coastal parts of South Africa, may get taller and has orange red flowers; said to have been planted on the graves of indigenous royalty


Open woodland, mountain slopes, bushveld and coastal thickets; medium to higher rainfall areas; wide range of altitudes

Distribution (SA provinces)

Eastern Cape; Kwazulu-Natal; Mpumalanga; Gauteng; Limpopo; North West


South Africa; Swaziland; Zimbabwe; Angola; Mozambique; Botswana; Mozambique; Malawi


Info: Palgrave;


Erythrina lysistemon taken in Roossenekal in September: Photgraphed by Judd Kirkel.jpg