Amarjeet Singh Batth
Erythrina indica or Erythrina, known locally as the Indian Coral Tree belongs to the family Fabaceae and is globally distributed in tropical and sun tropical regions. It is amongst the earliest flowering trees in the spring season and adds colour to the skyline with its conspicuous vibrant red coloured flowers.
It is a useful plant for soil enrichment as it fixes nitrogen, nodulating readily and prolifically in both acid and alkaline soils and is also a good source of organic matter for green manure.
It is a medium sized deciduous tree that grows up to 10 meters. The young stems and branches are armed with numerous stout conical prickles upto eight cm long and these fall off after 2-3 years. The bark is smooth, yellowish or greenish grey with longitudinal cracks when the tree is young and it becomes thick corky and deeply fissured with age. Leaves are compound, trifoliate, petiolate, terminal leaflet large and broad.
Flowers arranged in erect terminal racemes which appear on leafless branches. Red coloured blooms make their striking appearance in spring from February to April. These short-lived flowers are followed by new leaves.
Calyx is spathaceous. Corolla, papilinoaceous, wings and keel sub-equal, standard erect, long, claw like. Stamens are ten, diadelphous. The pistil is with a pubescent ovary and hairless style. Fruit is bean-like pod.
Where to plant
It is a good specimen garden plant in a home garden and can be planted in groups of 3-5-7 in large and public gardens. It is not a good avenue plant but forms an impressive skyline when planted along road on the southern side with deep blue sky which glitters the red flowers.
When to plant
The best time to plant is February- March and August- September. Make a pit of 3’x3’x3’ and expose the soil to the sun for few days. Then mix farm yard manure and DAP and settle in the pit. Fill the pit with water and let the soil settle down. When the soil becomes workable, dig a hole slightly bigger than the soil ball of the plant and place the plant sapling in it and press the soil to firm the roots. Water the plant immediately. Ensure the sampling stands straight and avoid giving a support.
Care and Upkeep
This is an easy-to- maintain tree. It requires deep irrigation during summers with dry intervals and just keep the soil moist in winters. Prune it whenever required to maintain good shape and form. Since it is a deciduous tree, the leaves fall in winters.
In Hinduism it’s the ‘Mandra tree’ of Indra’s Garden in ‘swarga’, the paradise. It also hase the same reference in Tibetian Buddhism and Christian Gnosticism. When in bloom the coral tree is like an aviary, attracting numerous bird species as well as bees collecting nectar. The leaves and tender shoots are a delicacy in many cuisines and are eaten as pot herbs. Wood is good for making rafts and floaters.
You can reduce the amount of harmful cholesterol in the blood by including some essence of the leaves of the Indian coral tree to your diet. It flushes out the bad LDL cholesterol and helps augment the heart health. Regular use will make your heart healthy.
Its stem is used to improve digestion and bark is used to cure worm infestation.
Erythrina indica has antipyretic properties and you can use it to get relief from fevers. Prepare tea with the leaves of the tree and have one glass of it twice daily until the fever vanishes.
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