ERYTHRINA HUMEANA

As we start peering towards the end of winter, it is appropriate to introduce the slender, rather graceful member of the Erythrina family in South Africa: the Erythrina humeana, commonly known  as the Dwarf Coral Tree. This specimen in Kew Gardens still retains the former name for it: Dwarf Kafferboom, a name now considered offensive in this country. I am nonetheless interested that they have used the Afrikaans spelling instead of the English form, Kaffirboom. Well, ‘boom’ is Afrikaans anyway (meaning ‘tree’), so why not.

This attractive plant grows from the Eastern Cape, through KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga into Swaziland and Mozambique. They flower in summer, bearing leaves at the same time – unlike Erythrina caffra and Erythrina lysistemon, for example. The latter two flower from winter to early spring, when the trees tend to be leafless. The beautiful scarlet flowers are long-lasting as they usually appear from about September to April. The specimen below grows on a pavement in a nearby suburb of our town.

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14 thoughts on “ERYTHRINA HUMEANA

    • The seasons turn, yet summer must be the favourite of most of us: we mourn its passing, yet the other seasons are important for the renewal of life. I am really hoping that we will get rain this summer, although that is still a long way off.

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    • I have read that they are popular potted plants in sunnier places abroad, so am pleased you have been able to enjoy their beauty first hand.

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  1. Not all name changes were bad – that such a lovely plant had to be known by such a cringe-worthy name for so long is baffling. Whoever gave it the original name must have had some reason to make the connection, and I know the name comes from a very different time in our history and has to be judged so, but surely they could’ve tried harder for a moniker more befitting to such a beauty!

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    • That would be the Erythrina zeyheri, known as umSinsana in Zulu, and they flower in spring. I have read that cultivation from their seeds is important because so many plants have been destroyed in their natural habitats through farming – hence the common name:)

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