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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Erythrina crista-galli - Cockspur Coral Tree

The Cockspur Coral Tree is a small deciduous tree with an umbrella shaped canopy reaching 15-20' in Santa Cruz, but you may find them smaller than that. The most obvious one in town is at city hall. Not a great specimen, was not sure why, but I looked at google street view history and the space was dominated by a Hollywood Juniper and this tree was being crowded out. When in full bloom it looks pretty nice. Waiting for the fall color… supposed to be yellow….



Leaves are deciduous, alternate, trifoliate, leaflets narrowly elliptical 3-5" long, margins slightly less than smooth, and spines on the lower portion of the main veins. Distinct swollen area at the base of the petiole, the pulvinus.



Flowers in the spring occasionally in summer and into fall, fragrant, showy bright red or pinkish-red, in long drooping panicles. Individual flowers are "pea-like" with a distinct elongated lower petal shaped like the keel of a boat. This is taken in December, winter here, but you can see the elongated lower petal. Looks like thrip damage maybe.



These are the flowers about to open.



Fruit is a brown pod, with constrictions between the seeds. Ripening in the fall. This is summer. You can see the constrictions.



Interesting seeds if you take the time to look at them.



Stems are green, stout, with nasty prickles. You can even see the tell tale pulvinus on the petiole of the leaf.



Bark is usually attractive, potentially deeply furrowed.




Tree is also known as the Coral Tree, Crybabytree, Christ's Tears.

Misidentification:
Erythrina caffra, around here anyway, if you are in a more tropical area you are likely to become very confused. These have narrower elliptical leaflets and are smaller trees.

Location:
Aptos
Cabrillo College Hort Department has one in back garden area, its low growing.

Santa Cruz
City Hall along Center St.

114 Myrtle St.

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