Erythrina berteroana Urb.
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
Cultivated here and there as an ornamental, as a living fence post, as fuelwood
species, and cork substitute (Duke, 1972). Resides living fenceposts and
hedges, the trees have been grown as support in vanilla plantations. According
to Little and Wadsworth, it is seldom used for anything but fuel in Puerto
Rico. The wood is whitish, soft, lightweight (specific gravity 0.3) and has
been used for carving toys and figurines. Cattle and rabbits graze the young
shoots and leaves. In Guatemala, flower buds, young leaves, and young twigs
are eaten like stringbeans though deemed potentially harmful (Little and
Wadsworth, 1964). Poisonous seeds have been strung into bracelets, necklaces,
and novelties. Bark yields a yellow dye. Crushed branches are used to
intoxicate fish. Corollas of this and other species, placed in hollow leaf
stalks, serve as a children's whistle.
Reported to be narcotic, piscicidal, poisonous, and soporific, coralbean is a
folk remedy for dysmenorrhea and other female ailments (Duke and Wain, 1981).
According to Morton (1981), the sedative flower decoction is used for
dysentery, hemorrhages and nervousness. Guatemalans believe that tucking the
flowers and leaves under ones pillow will make one sleep well. Recently we
acquired large quantities for further research in the now-defunct
cancer-screening program. Bayano Cuna of Panama use the plant for female
ailments (Duke, 1972).
Per 100 g, the leaves and young buds are reported to contain 48 calories, 84.2
g H2O, 4.4 g protein, 0.2 g fat, 10.0 g total carbohydrate, 2.4 g fiber, 1.2 g
ash, 108 mg Ca, 80 mg P, 2.2 mg Fe, 220 ug beta-carotene equivalent, 0.19 mg
thiamine, 0.19 mg riboflavin, 1.2 mg niacin, and 37 mg ascorbic acid. (Duke
and Atchley, 1984). On a zero-moisture basis, leaves contain 304 calories,
27.8 g protein, 1.3 g fat, 63.3 g total carbohydrate, 15.2 g fiber, 7.6 g ash,
684 mg Ca, 216 mg P, 9.7 mg Fe, 12,433 ug beta-carotene equivalent, 1.3 mg
thiamine, 0.92 mg riboflavin, 25.43 mg niacin, and 16 mg ascorbic acid (Duke,
1981b). Seeds contain erysodine, erysoline, erysopine, erysothiopine,
erysothiovine, erysovine, alpha- and beta-erythroidine (also in the wood), and
hypaphorine. Hypaphorine, the betaine of tryptophane is a curare-like
convulsive poison. Chawla et al., (1982) report one new alkaloid in the seed
extract, 8-oxo-alpha-erythroidine, and 8-oxo-beta-erythroidine in the leaf
Armed tree to 10 m tall, the leaves alternate, trifoliate, 10-35 cm long, the
leaflets ovate or deltoid, 5-12.5 cm long, 4-12.5 cm wide, entire shortly acute
or acuminate at the apex. Flowers pinkish to red, appearing with the leaves,
in terminal racemes, each flower ca 5-10 cm long, embracing 10 stamens, the
anthers protruding. Ovary stalked, pubescent. Pod dark brown, curved,
moniliform, 10-30 cm long, 1-1.5 cm broad, the beak 2-4 cm long, the several
seeds oblongoid, bright orange red, with a conspicuous black hilum (Morton,
1981; Little and Wadsworth, 1964).
Reported from the Central American (and possibly West Indian) Center of
Diversity. (2n = 42)
According to Krukoff (1970) E. berteroana is by far the most common
species in Central America. It is the common lowland species ascending to
nearly 1500 m in drier regions, like the Oriente of Guatemala. Morton (1981)
extends the range to 2000 m and to Colombia, noting that it is wild or
naturalized in Cuba and Hispaniola, cultivated and naturalized in Panama.
Estimated to range from Tropical Dry to Wet through Subtropical Dry to Wet
Forest Life Zones, this coralbean is estimated to tolerate annual precipitation
of 10 to 40 dm, annual temperature of 20 to 28°C, and pH of 6 to 8.
According to Martin and Ruberte (1975), this is one of the easiest species of
Erythrina to grow. Like most Erythrinas, this probably roots
readily from large fence-post sized cuttings. Seeds germinate rather rapidly.
For those risking them as vegetables, the young buds and leaves are probably at
their tenderest when leafing out, often in tandem with the commencement of the
No data available.
With no hard data available to me, I have no reason to suspect that this
species would be any less productive than E. poeppigiana, which probably
returns ca 25 MT/ha/yr in monoculture, 10 MT/ha in intercropping.scenarios.
Nitrogen fixing nodules are reported in Hawaii (Allen and Allen, 1981).
No data available.
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Allen, O.N. and Allen, E.K. 1981. The Leguminosae. The University of Wisconsin
Press. 812 p.
- Chawla, A.S., Jackson, A.H., and Ludgate, P. 1982. Erythrina alkaloids
6. Isolation and characterization of alkaloids from Erythrina berteroana
seeds and leaves--formation of oxo erythroidines. J. Chem. Soc. Perkins Trans.
I 0 (12):2903-2908.
- Duke, J.A. 1972. Isthmian ethnobotanical dictionary. Publ. by the author.
Harrod & Co., Baltimore.
- Duke, J.A. 1981b. The gene revolution. Paper 1. p. 89-150. In: Office of
Technology Assessment, Background papers for innovative biological technologies
for lesser developed countries. USGPO. Washington.
- Duke, J.A. and Atchley, A.A. 1984. Proximate analysis. In: Christie, B.R.
(ed.), The handbook of plant science in agriculture. CRC Press, Inc., Boca
- Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
- Krukoff, B.A. 1970. Supplementary notes on the American species of
Erythrina. IV. Field studies in Central American species. Mem. N.Y. Bot.
- Little, E.L., Jr., and Wadsworth, F.H. 1964. Common trees of Puerto Rico and
the Virgin Islands. Ag. Handbook 249, USDA, Washington, DC.
- Martin, F.W. and Ruberte, R.M. 1975. Edible leaves of the tropics. Antillian
College Press, Mayaguez.
- Morton, J.F. 1981. Atlas of medicinal plants of middle America. Bahamas to
Yucatan. C.C. Thomas, Springfield, IL.
last update July 9, 1996