Native to the river basins and upland forests of South America. It is now naturalized in Central America and the Caribbean at elevations as high as 2,000 m.
Coral Bean is a common agroforestry tree with a variety of uses such as: living fences and hedges, shade, mulching, support for vine crops and alley cropping. The wood is light and porous and more suited to canoes and carving than to fuel. Erythrina species have been reported as good sources of fodder in small amounts for ruminants due to potentially toxic alkaloids in the leaves. In addition, they have ornamental value with attractive orange-red flowers that can be eaten sparingly in salads and soups.
Erythrina spp. can be propagated by seed, air layering, or cuttings. Soaking the seeds in water for 24 hours may enhance germination. Unrooted cuttings should be long stakes taken from young branches. However, there are reports of propagation from large fence-post type cuttings. For alleycropping, E. poeppigiana should be planted with 1-2 m between trees and 6-8 m between rows. If introducing Erythrina spp. to an area inoculation of seeds or cuttings with Bradyrhizobium bacteria is recommended. E. poeppigiana once established and given adequate annual rainfall (100-400 cm) is relatively easy to grow.
Harvesting and Seed Production
Blunt thorns on woody parts of the plants should be avoided. For green manure purposes the crop is usually harvested once a year but more frequent cutting can be done if leaves are used as fodder. Collect the seeds from mature bean pods and store in a cool dry place until germination is desired.
Pests and Diseases
The pest that has raised the most concern with Erythrina sp. is the adult June beetle (Phyllophaga menetriesi) which feeds on the young leaves of trees. The root-eating larvae of the adult may be a risk for crops grown in association with the trees.
Orwa C, A Mutua, Kindt R , Jamnadass R, S Anthony. 2009 Agroforestree Database:a tree reference and selection guide version 4.0 (http://www.worldagroforestry.org/sites/treedbs/treedatabases.asp)