Cockspur Coral Tree (Erythrina crista-galli) – Care Guide

The Cockspur Coral Tree (Erythrina crista-galli) also known as Ceibo and Corticeira is a tree native to South America. In past times, it was more abundant and widely distributed throughout the continent.

However, it is currently found in north-central Argentina, the Bolivian border, the Paraguay-Brazil borders, and much of Uruguay.

There is a variety of white Erythrina crista-galli, originally found growing wild in eastern Uruguay. It is noted for its remarkably snowy-white flowers.

These contrast with the traditionally red flowers of the genotype of the species, the “Ceibo común” or “Ceibo del Plata”. The white Cockspur Coral Tree was made known in 1961 by the Uruguayan botanist and horticulturist Atilio Lombardo. The Cockspur Coral Tree flower is the national symbol of Argentina and Uruguay.

Characteristics of Cockspur Coral Tree

The Cockspur Coral Tree is a tree of the subfamily of the Faboideae, it has a woody trunk of the irregular shape of red and brown color with a diameter between 24” and 28” (60 and 70 centimeters) and a taproot.

The flowers are gathered in racemose inflorescence. The five petals and tepals are the same color (red). The corolla is similar to that of the bean flower.

The so-called “standard” or larger petal is the lower one. The other two petals are welded together forming the keel that protects the reproductive organs, and the remaining two (called wings) are small and are hidden inside the calyx.

characteristics cockspur coral tree
Erythrina crista-galli flower.

They produce a lot of nectar that attracts insects and are thus pollinated by them. The fruit (measuring more than 4” (10 cm) is the typical legume pod, with cylindrical, brown, dicotyledonous seeds distributed inside.

The cotyledons are of the “hypogeous” type because even after germination they remain underground. Cockspur Coral Tree wood is obtained from the trunk, although it is not used as a construction element (it is very weak), it is used to manufacture veneers and moldings for lining surfaces.

The processing of the bark allows for obtaining cellulosic pulp, which can be used for various industrial purposes, one of them, obtaining products similar to paper. Medicinal properties are also attributed to this bark.

It is said that boiled in a water bath, it relieves rheumatic pains, and also serves as an astringent for the skin. Its ornamental value and its medium size, in addition to not having destructive roots, made it the chosen tree to provide shade and color to sidewalks, parks, and squares.

Watering Erythrina crista-galli

The Cockspur Coral Tree plant requires regular watering, but without waterlogging the soil, as this will be detrimental to the respiration of its roots. It is a matter of periodically evaluating the state of the soil.

In winter, for example, the irrigation to be applied, because it is in vegetative rest, will be very reduced, but in summer they should be increased. Learn more about Best Time to Water Plants.

How to Grow Cockspur Coral Tree

Erythrina crista-galli is usually planted in spring, by seed or cuttings. Follow these steps to know how to grow Cockspur Coral Tree.

  1. Make a deep and wide hole to place the seed or the layering.
  2. Place a compost rich in organic matter, compost, or manure.
  3. Choose a substrate with moisture.
  4. Plant in full sun or semi-shade.
  5. Water regularly, without puddling.

Learn more about How to Plant a Tree Step by Step.

how to grow cockspur coral tree

How to Care for Cockspur Coral Tree

The Cockspur Coral Tree requires a very humid environment for its development and growth.

It has, like several leguminous plants, the capacity to take advantage of the inorganic nitrogen present in the soil, which allows it to maintain continuity in its development.

It withstands extreme conditions: if it suffers frost, the new branches are burned and the leaves fall off, but the root remains protected by the soil and in spring it sprouts again.

Fire also destroys the aerial part of the Erythrina crista-galli and in time it grows back. Its roots are highly resistant to both frost and fire.

Pruning Cockspur Coral Tree

The Cockspur Coral Tree admits deep pruning, topping, and deformation. The shears and tools needed for pruning must be special for gardening and must be well sterilized so as not to cause damage to the plant. Learn more about Root Pruning: When and How to Prune the Roots.

pruning cockspur coral tree
Pruning Erythrina crista-galli.

Pests and Diseases of Erythrina crista-galli

The Cockspur Coral Tree is susceptible to the appearance of some pests, such as aphids, scale insects (they stick to the trunk and branches), and red spiders. As for diseases, some fungal diseases can also occur.

Meaning Of This Tree

The scientific name of the Cockspur Coral Tree: Erythrina crista-galli comes from the Greek erythros = “red” and crista galli, Latin epithet meaning “cockscomb”.

An old Argentine legend says that the Erythrina crista-galli flower is the soul of an Indian named Anahi, condemned to die at the stake for the death of a Spanish sentry.

Placed her fragile body between the thick branches of a low tree with wide leaves, she was enveloped in the red glow of the bonfire.

meaning of this tree
Meaning of Erythrina crista-galli.

Those who witnessed the martyrdom observed that the body of the young Indian girl was becoming igneous and acquiring the shape of a tree. The first light of dawn illuminated the beautiful red Cockspur Coral Tree flower that emerged from Anahí’s soul.

From the legend comes the meaning of the Erythrina crista-galli flower, which embodies the pure and haughty soul of a race that no longer exists.

Its solitude signifies the memory of those who knew how to die. It is the sad and solitary flower of veneration and in its living form, a hidden tenderness palpitates.

“It is the soul of Anahi, the indomitable one, the one with the sweet voice, nestled in the Cockspur Coral Tree flower, the one she created with her martyrdom and her love of freedom”.

About Henry Morgan

We are the Morgan family, Henry, and Julia, both agronomists from the University of Michigan, where we met. We are experts in putting our hands in the soil and developing organic foods and improving production processes for decades. Likewise, we have worked for companies such as Mondelez International, BASF, Monsanto, etc. currently in our role as science writers for TheGardenStyle.com as well as advisors in promoting large scale food growing in urbanized areas. In this website, we share what we are most passionate about, gardening and farming. Enjoy and see real photos on our website.