Erythrina fusca

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Local names:
Bengali (harikakra), English (bucayo,coral bean,erythrina,swamp immortelle,purple coral-tree), Filipino (anii,korung-korung), French (bois immortel,immortelle blanche,immortelle blanc), Indonesian (cangkring,kane,rase), Javanese (cankring,cangkring), Khm

Erythrina fusca is a medium to large spreading tree, reaching 10-15 (max. 26) m tall; crown rounded; trunk short, spiny (spines 1-2 cm long), much branched, sometimes buttressed to 2 m; bark brownish-grey or olive-brown, flaky; branches spreading, spiny; branchelets stout, spineless or aculeate.

Leaves alternate, trifoliate; stipules and stipels orbicular, caducous; petiole up to 25 cm long, sometimes sparsely prickly; rachis up to 5 cm long, petiolule up to 1.5 cm; leaflets ovate to elliptical.

Inflorescence racemose, terminal, appearing when leaves are present, with pale brick-red or salmon flowers in fascicles scattered along the rachis, covered with deciduous, ferruginous hairs, mostly unarmed peduncle up to 13 cm long; rachis 8-30 cm long; pedicel up to 2 cm long; stamens 10, 4-6 cm long, 1 free, 9 united in lower half into staminal tube; pistil 4-6 cm long; ovary densely pubescent.

Fruit a woody, linear compressed pod, dehiscent, slightly constricted between 3-15 seeds; stipe stout, 1.5 cm long; beak 2 cm long, velvety, ferruginously hairy when young, later glabrescent; seeds oblong-ellipsoid, 12-18 x 5-8 mm, dark brown or black.

Erythrina comes from the Greek word ‘eruthros’-red, alluding to the showy red flowers of the Erythrina species. The specific name, ‘fusca’, is a Latin word for tawny or brownish-grey.


E. fusca is a pioneer species, most commonly found on the outer margins of swamps on sites that are not permanently flooded.

Native range
Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Venezuela

Tree management

Established trees stand regular pruning very well. They start sprouting rapidly and develop strong shoots. E. fusca is managed under a moderate regime of pruning if it is grown as a shade tree for cocoa. The trees are partially pollarded once every 1-2 years, leaving a few branches per tree to regulate light influx to the crop. A 6-month pollarding cycle is used for trees supporting black pepper vines.

Seed storage behaviour is orthodox.

E. fusca is a pioneer species, most commonly found on the outer margins of swamps on sites that are not permanently flooded.

When used as a shade or nurse tree, E. fusca is propagated by large cuttings, about 2 m long and 6-10 cm in diameter. Rooting success is excellent provided soil moisture is close to field capacity. E. fusca can also be propagated easily by seed. Fresh seed has a germination capacity of 80-95%.

Poison:  The presence of ant-repellent compounds in the nectar has been reported.

The feasibility of using E. fusca in reforestation projects in the tropics as a nurse tree for other tree species is an alternative that can be explored.

  The young leaves are eaten as a vegetable in Java and Bali, and the flowers in Guatemala.

In Central America, E. fusca is used as a source of fodder.

Farmers occasionally use the dry branches of E. fusca as fuelwood despite claims that the branches do not burn well and produce a lot of ash. It is used more because it is available rather than because it is preferred.

Shade or shelter:  E. fusca is often planted as a shade tree in cocoa and coffee plantations in Central America and less frequently in Southeast Asia. 

Medicine:  The bark is used as a poultice on fresh wounds, and bark or root decoctions against beriberi.

Ornamental:  Like many Erythrina species, E. fusca is often planted for ornamental purposes.

In Costa Rica, E. fusca is occasionally used in live fences although much less commonly than E. berteroana and other Erythrina species. The tree is also used as a support for black pepper vines.

Soil improver:  In Bahia, Brazil, it has been observed that cocoa trees planted near E. fusca produce more pods than those growing farther away from the shade trees. This is attributed to increased litter fall in plantations with this species, which adds to the available amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil.

Intercropping:  Where rainfall is irregular and sometimes below 1000 mm per year, E. fusca has been noted to persist in prolonged drought without losing its leaves, recirculating nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from prunings. It is therefore a promising species for agroforestry systems in such areas where it would be intercropped with maize and cassava.