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Erythrina herbacea - L.

Common Name Cardinal Spear, Redcardinal
Family Fabaceae or Leguminosae
USDA hardiness 7-10
Known Hazards The plant contains alkaloids that have powerful narcotic and purgative effects[200]. The seeds contain numerous toxic alkaloids, including erysodine and erysopine. They have an action similar to curare and have been used as a rat poison[274].
Habitats Sandy soils in hummocks, the coastal plain and pinelands[229].
Range South-eastern N. America - North Carolina to Texas.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care
Frost Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Erythrina herbacea Cardinal Spear, Redcardinal


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Erythrina herbacea Cardinal Spear, Redcardinal
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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Erythrina herbacea is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 8 and is frost tender. It is in flower from July to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

E. arborea. Small.

Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves
Edible Uses:

Flowers - cooked. An acceptable vegetable when boiled[183]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Young leaves - occasionally cooked and eaten[183].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antiemetic  Diuretic  Narcotic  Purgative  Tonic

The plant is narcotic and purgative[200]. A cold infusion of the root has been used to treat bowel pain in women[257]. A decoction of the roots or berries has been used to treat nausea, constipation and blocked urination[257]. A decoction of the 'beans' or inner bark has been used as a body rub and steam for numb, painful limbs and joints[257]. A decoction of the leaves has been used as a general tonic[257].

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Other Uses

None known

Special Uses

Nitrogen Fixer

Cultivation details

Requires a moderately fertile well-drained soil in a very sunny position[200]. Best if given the protection of an east, south or south-west facing wall[200]. Becoming a tree in the south of its range, this species is shrubby or even herbaceous towards the limits of its northerly range[229]. It is not very hardy outdoors in Britain though the rootstock can tolerate temperatures down to about -10°c provided the stem bases are thickly mulched with organic matter such as leaf litter or sawdust and covered with bracken[200]. Alternatively, the roots can be lifted in the autumn and stored in a cool frost-free place, replanting in the spring. Plants take 3 - 4 years to flower from seed[200]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200].

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Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Propagation

Seed - pre-soak for 12 hours in warm water and sow spring in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame[200]. Overwinter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring or early summer. Heeled cuttings of young growth in the spring in a frame[200]. Overwinter in a greenhouse and plant out in late spring or early summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Erythrina acanthocarpa Shrub2.0 8-11  LMHSNM01 
Erythrina crista-galliCoral Tree, CrybabytreeShrub3.0 7-10  LMHNM01 
Erythrina edulisBalu. Andean tree beanTree10.0 10-12 FLMHNDM323
Erythrina fuscaCoral Bean, Swamp ImmortelleTree15.0 10-12 MLMHNDM224
Erythrina humeanaDwarf Kaffirboom, Dwarf erythrinaShrub4.0 8-11  LMHSNM01 
Erythrina poeppigianaMountain Immortelle. Madre de CacaoTree25.0 10-12 FLMHNDM103
Erythrina sandwicensisWiliwili, Hawaiian coral treeTree10.0 10-12 FLMHNDM022
Erythrina subumbransDadap. December treeTree20.0 10-12 FLMHNDM223
Erythrina vernaMulunguTree12.0 10-12 FLMHNDM042
Erythrina x bidwillii Shrub4.0 7-10  LMHSNM01 
Erythrina zeyheriPrickly CardinalShrub1.0 8-11  LMHSNM01 

 

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Expert comment

Author

L.

Botanical References

200274

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