a/k/a The National Flower of Argentina

The Cockspur Coral Tree has to be one of the most beautiful trees in the World.

Although native to South America, the COCKSPUR CORAL TREE (Erythrina crista-galli), where it is the National Flower of Argentina, does very well in the Houston area. It is rather rare in Houston, Texas, but the experience of your Curator, is that it is one of the hardiest of flowering shrubs and smaller trees. When Houston winters were colder and this shrub-like tree froze completely back, it recovered and was blooming again by the next blooming season.

Several things about this species of Coral Tree are interesting:

It tolerates cold weather pretty well. Terry's large Cockspur Coral Tree has frozen back a few times when winters were colder some years back. However, after being frozen to the ground, the tree rebounded to grow into another pretty good sized tree in the next year. Then each following year it got a little larger until it maximized out at about 12 feet tall.

The stalks inflorescence may grow up to two feet and have dozens of gorgeous, intricate red flowers on each stalk.
The leaves grow in triple leaflets.Each leaf has a backward hooking thorn on the bottom of the leaf, which can deliver a painful tearing cut should you walk into or fall into the the shrub or small tree. [An inflorescence may be defined as a cluster of flowers,
where all flowers arise from the main stem axis or peduncle]

Although they bloom prolifically, i.e. dozens or hundreds of stalks with dozens of flowers on each, Terry has collected only about 25 to 30 beans from the trees over a period of 15 to 20 years. This may be due to the lack of other Cockspur Coral Trees in the area. There are only about 4 or 5 other trees within a 1 to 2 mile area around Terry's law office. He is propagating more trees to see if this increases the production of seed.

Your Curator's tree stands about 12 feet tall and blooms about every six to eight weeks, depending upon rains (it usually blooms within a week to 10 days of a heavy rain). The tree continues to bloom from early spring into winter in Houston, dropping its leaves about December and re-leafing about March or April, then flowering not long afterwards.

When the tree freezes back, and you later cut through the dead multiple trunks of the Cockspur Coral, with only a couple of strokes of a tree limb saw. A trunk which is perhaps six feet long and 4" to 5" diameter will weigh less than a pound. The wood of the Cockspur Coral Tree is almost like Balsa wood. As a result it is easy to break off a growing limb by just jerking on it. So don't plan on putting up any swings on your Cockspur Coral Tree.

An inflorescence of
Cockspur Coral on
backlighted background
Seedpod and seeds
from Cockspur Coral Tree
An inflorescence of
Cockspur Coral on
dark background