As we walked from the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory Boathouse to to the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) on 3/30/2019, we saw lots of striking spikes of scarlet flowers radiating up from within the vegetation along the road. The coralbean (Erythrina herbacea) is flowering.
Coralbean, also known as cherokee bean, is a multi-trunked shrub or small tree. Its upright racemes of reddish flowers often seem to grow up out of other foliage. Often, but not always, coralbeans drop all (or most) of their trifoliate leaves when they flower.
The timing of flowers is quite variable. This year some coralbeans began to flower in December. Some plants are just beginning to flower …
Some plants have yet to flower, and other plants have flowers and fruits at the same time.
Coralbean is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, and its green “pods” will turn brown when ripe and split open to reveal coral-colored hard seeds, which are poisonous.
You will see this native plant “volunteering” in the midst of other plants along roadsides, especially where native plant communities are preserved, including along Olso Road and along A1A at Sebastian Inlet State Park.
Its tubular flowers are attractive to long-tongued butterflies and to hummingbirds. Coralbean makes a great landscape plant for dry places where its recurved prickles are not a problem.