Opinions: Erythrina crista-galli 'Coral/Crybaby/Cockspur tree'

bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)August 7, 2008

I saw one of these down at Moody Gardens in Galveston and took photos for future reference.

Then, I saw another a bit further north at the Bear Creek Extension Office here in Houston in a protected location on the north side of a building.

Of course, I'm another 10 miles north...

What experiences do you all have with these?

1. How bad are the thorns? I don't do Bougainvilleas because I don't like cleaning out winter-killed branches. Are the thorns on this as bad?

2. Many sites mention they die back to the ground but come back as a vigorous shrub. Do I need to plan this in my landscape as a single trunked tree that might die back, or plan on a shrub?

3. One site said it's called the "Crybaby tree" because it constantly weeps nectar when in bloom. Is it messy with ants and sticky near patios?

4. Is it definitely deciduous?

The pluses are those great red blooms and it says the hummers love it.

Any feedback is appreciated.

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kasiaw(Z9 TX)

I've been growing this plant for four years.

The thorns are only present where petiole joins leaf blade. They don't bother me much when I prune, but then, fire ants don't bother me much, either ;)

Mine has never died back to the ground, although some branches have died back last time we had a freeze. I prune it as a single-trunked tree, but it is a plant that, if left to its own devices, would grow shrub-like. Making it into a shade tree requires removal of low-hanging branches for several years.

I haven't noticed any nectar, and no ant problems, but then again, I haven't been looking for those. Mine is planted next to a flagstone patio and I haven't noticed stone discoloration.

I don't know whether it is deciduous; it usually loses its leaves with the first frost of the season.

In all, I would recommend it. It's attractive to look at, gives shade and privacy, and does not require a lot of water.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 4:35PM
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I've got one that I grew from seeds, from Moody Gardens! Not a real fast grower, heavy bloomer, the thorns are a minor nuisance, usually when it sticks me when walking past, it needs to be pruned! Drought tolerant. Really pretty. Never noticed sap leaking out. Not like the dang hackberries.
Tally HO!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 12:52PM
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bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)

Thanks guys. I bought one at Arbor Gate yesterday. My apologies, I can't remember the name of the lady that always helps me, but anyway 1 of the regulars showed me where they were and noted that the E. crista-galli was slightly more orangeish-red than another Erythrina she said was identical but with slightly smaller, but intense true red blooms. I bought the one with the intense red blooms.

So, Beachplant, if yours is an intense bloomer, but slow to grow, how many years until blooming did it take?

(Since I'm just putting in my gardens, I won't have much but seeds for fall plant swaps!)



    Bookmark   August 11, 2008 at 6:59PM
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It bloomed at about 3 years old. Just a couple of blooms on the short little tree. It was sooo cute.
Tally HO!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2008 at 4:23PM
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Well now I find you all! I have been looking for this tree for some time now saw one in La Grange years back but that tree does not give seeds, and the cuttings don't take, maybe something wrong with the way I did this, anyway I went on e-bay and found the seeds bought 30.00 worth! any suggestions as to when to plant this seeds? north south east west which location? One tree is called naked tree another is called claw tree,flame tree,caffra,hot poker tree, corralloides, and also orange coral tree,mind you this are all seeds.Maybe someone knows where I can find baby trees around Austin, Houston? Coral trees of course, any help will be appreciated Thanks so much

    Bookmark   October 16, 2008 at 11:43PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

I've had one growing in my yard for about 5 years. It is beautiful when it blooms. It is about 7' tall. The first winter it died back to the ground, so I cut it all the way back, but it came back and has done well ever since. It even survived the 2004 Christmas snow. And it does seem to be a slow grower. The thorns have never bothered me. My Texas black ebony tree has far worse thorns. I have always called them "fireman's cap" trees.

I didn't know that they go by Coral/Crybaby/Cockspur trees. Another reason to learn the botanical name. And I have seeds on it right now if anyone is interested.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2008 at 9:03AM
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Hi 1tcollins! sure are interested in your seeds Will u be kind enough to contact me? I will pay for postage and will help to find anything that u might be looking for Thanks

    Bookmark   October 18, 2008 at 11:24AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

Marcie, you've got mail.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 6:06PM
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bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)

The hybrid I purchased (Erythrina X bodwillii) is apparently sterile (by observation of no seed set and confirmation by a botanist friend who works for the Field Museum). But I do love the intense red blooms.

As a hurricane Ike note, it was totally defoliated by the winds, but has leafed out completely again and has set at least 2 bloom spikes one of which is in full bloom as I type and another to take its place.

It would definitely prefer to be a shrub, but I would definitely prefer it to be a small tree where I've placed it, so I'll be whacking the little growth at the bottom. I may try to get them to root and see what they do. I've finally settled enough here to begin doing some more "serious" gardening stuff like starting seeds and rooting things!

Linda, I might be interested in the seeds, but not just yet. I'm still at that awkward stage of wanting to garden, but not having my beds ready to receive plantings!

Thanks for the additional info!


    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 10:16AM
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bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)

I went out and snapped a couple of photos of my hybrid (E. X bodwillii). This first one is just to show you that the blooms are more intense red, but don't possess the large "hood" of the non-hybrid E. crista-galli.

The second one isn't that great because the sunlight is too bright right now, but I think you can tell this thing is trying to be a shrub. I had trimmed all the basal growth out of it when I planted back in August. Hurricane Ike came and defoliated the whole thing and as it rejuvenated, it added the basal growth back on. Because it also set the first buds, I haven't whacked it back off yet. I'll try to root the cuttings when I do and see if anything happens!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 10:36AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

Hello Marcie & Bobbi!

Well today I mailed Marcie all of the Fireman's Cap Tree Erythrina crista-galli seed/seed pods that I had, but I know that there will be more next summer.

And I also mailed Marcie some Coral Bean Erythrina herbacea seed/seed pods. I still have lots of these if anyone wants some. Let me know.

Remember that the seeds of both are highly poisonous.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 7:04PM
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Hello! I just moved to the Houston area from San Diego where there were quite a few coral trees. I'm interested in planting one at our new home and was wondering if anyone knew of any nurseries in the area that carried them.

Also, how difficult are they to grow from seed?

Thanks so much...glad I found this thread (even if it's an older one!).

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 12:09PM
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bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)

Hi bindsd,

Not sure what part of Houston you're in, but The Arbor Gate up at Tomball is where I got mine. They had both the E. crista-galli and the E. crista-galli X bodwillii last fall. The Arbor Gate is a great nursery and would be on my "grand tour of Houston nurseries." If you're closer to central Houston, I would suspect that Joshua's or Buchanens in the Heights would have them as well.

Here are the web addresses for your reference, if not for this tree, than for future plant expeditions! Give them a call and see if they have the trees for you.

I don't have growing from seed info for you, but from Tally's post looks like they'll bloom in 3 years. I haven't had the heart to whack mine back into tree form, so it's an unruly shrub right now. It didn't die back to the ground this winter with the light freezes/cold weather we had, but it definitely wants to be a shrub.

The Arbor Gate: http://www.arborgate.com/
Joshua's: http://www.joshuasnativeplants.com/
Buchanen's: http://www.buchanansplants.com/directions.htm
Another Place In Time (smaller, but also in the Heights with nice stock): http://www.anotherplaceintime.com/

    Bookmark   June 18, 2009 at 4:16PM
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Hi Bobbi -

Wow! Thanks for all the information and the links! We're moving to a house in Missouri City. The previous owner planted quite a variety of tropicals (including white ginger with variegated leaves) but they are either completely overgrown or under-watered! I have my hands full.

Arbor Gate looks like it deserves a visit while I'm still up in the area (The Woodlands).

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 1:00AM
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Any one out there with seeds for this tree? Last year I got some seeds from1tcollin1949 they did sprouted and were doing fine, but then myhusband up and got sick, emergency open heart surgery and valve repair, 3 weeks in the hospital December we got a cold spell and guess what? I lost my baby trees and some other plants too. I do have some plenty of seeds for mountain laurel tree,pride of barbedos,some yellow datura seeds,maybe cuttings of plumeria (white). Thank You all. Marcie

    Bookmark   June 19, 2009 at 11:19PM
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Xtal(z8b Temple. TX)

The San Antonio Arboretum has a considerably older tree. I think you might want to check it out... then, the next time you plant it, you'll want to put it farther away from a patio. Yours will be very crowded there if you don't transplant it this winter and take it with you.

I bought the bush variety which dies back every winter, but returns with vigor. The tree that I got was unable to handle our cold here in Temple. SA and Temple are miles apart in their temperature range. Having said that - I LOVE the fact that I don't really have to water it anymore... except for our severe droughts which we do get every summer.

Good choice. My compliments.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 10:18PM
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I just happen to have some seeds on hand. If you get in touch with me I would be more than happy to share.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 12:27PM
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This tree is a new one for me......is it considered a tropical? Although if it grows for Bobbi, it will grow for me since I am in the Cypress area too :) AND I am not far from Arbor Gate also, a place that has gotten a lot of my $$$ this past year!


    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 9:31AM
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bobbi_p(z8/9 Cypress, TX)


Arbor Gate actually has a decent sized specimen on the east side of their drive at the front parking lot (by the little pond next door). So, I'm thinking once they get some size on them, they're definitely winter hardy here (I'm in the Fry/290 area and of course, Arbor Gate is a bit north and east up on 2920).

The few freezes we had here this winter didn't kill mine to the ground. I still haven't whacked it back into tree form, but may towards the end of this month. Mine's a sterile hybrid, so no seed. I'll try rooting the cuttings.

It IS showy!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 4:13PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)


I've been gone for the month of June. Indiana, where temps are much lower than here in Texas. Anyway, I just read your post, and I was in the yard earlier today and noticed a bunch of seed pods. Do you want me to mail you some more? Let me know! Have a great, and very hot, 4th of July!


    Bookmark   July 3, 2009 at 2:32PM
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We just got back from Miami and everywhere there were mid-size trees with bright red/coral/orange blooms. I am wondering if this is what that was?

Haven't made it to Arbor Gate yet!


    Bookmark   July 8, 2009 at 12:18PM
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