We tend to associate the scarlet spiky flowers of various Erythrina trees with winter. Now, in the searing heat of summer, the thick cover of leaves on the Erythrina caffra in our garden is beginning to turn yellow. This gradual process warns us that the end of summer is already on its way. The leaves will turn brown and fall to the ground in time, leaving the branches bare and ready to be adorned by beautiful red flowers in winter. In contrast, the Erythrina humeana – Dwarf Coral Tree – happily blooms during the summer, bearing both leaves and flowers:
As you can see, the long red flower spikes of this attractive bush are carried above the leaves on slender stalks. What is not visible is the large underground wooden tuber, which helps to protect the plant from fire in its natural habitat.
Erythrina humeana grows in the wild from the Eastern Cape northwards along the coastal belt up into Mozambique. The name humeana refers to Sir Abraham Hume, the 19th century director of the English East India Company, who cultivated many exotic plants in his garden at Wormleybury.