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Erythrina poeppigiana (Walp.) O.F. Cook


Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Allen and Allen (1981) describe the tree as invaluable shade for coffee and cocoa. Since they are readily propagated from cuttings, they are also used for living fence posts. Both the shade trees and fence posts can be lopped as green manure, a system in use in Costa Rica and perhaps elsewhere. With its handsome orange-red f lowers, it is sometimes planted as an ornamental. Unpruned trees grew too large for coffee shade trees in Puerto Rico, according to Little and Wadsworth (1964), so its recommendation for coffee shade has been discontinued in Puerto Rico. It is still a popular coffee shade tree in the Andes. Flowers are said to be eaten in salads and soups (Little and Wadsworth, 1964).

Folk Medicine

According to Little and Wadsworth (1964), the bark, twigs, and seeds of various Erythrina species, more or less toxic, have provided local drugs and medicines. I have no specific data on this species.


Per 100 g, the seed is reported to contain 36.8 g protein, 12.4 g fat, and 5.5 g ash. The seeds, possibly poisonous, proved negative for starch test, alkaloid test, and tannin test (Earle and Jones, 1962). Willaman and Schubert (1961) report the alkaloids erysodine, erysopine, erysothiovine, erysovine, and hypaphorine from the seeds.


Deciduous tree to as much as 25 m tall, 1 m DBH, the crown spreading. Bark is greenish brown to gray brown, smooth or slightly furrowed, warty, or spiny. Leaves trifoliate, 20–30 cm long including the pubescent petioles, the leaflets with paired cupular glands near the bases of the lateral leaflets. Racemes 10–20 cm long, the flowers caducous, orange red; petals 5; stamens 10, the anthers brown. Pods 12–25 cm long, several seeded, falcate, slightly depressed between the seeds, long-stalked, pointed at both ends. Seeds 1–2 cm long, weighing ca .183 g each.


Reported from the South American Center of Diversity, poro, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate acid soils as well as moist limestone soils. (2n = 42)


Probably native from Venezuela to Panama, south to Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. Cultivated in Florida, Guatemala to Costa Rica, the West Indies, and the Old World Tropics.


I estimate that the species ranges from Tropical Moist to Tropical Wet through Subtropical Dry to Subtropical Rain Forest Life Zones, where annual precipitation is 15 to 40 dm, annual temperature is 20 to 28°C, and pH is 4.0 to7.5. Studied at Turrialba, mean annual temperature 22.3°C, the annual precipitation 2639 mm with only one month with less than 100 mm. The relative humidity is 87.6%, the mean monthly evaporation 92.3 mm, and the mean daily radiation 432 cal/m2/day. Soils were alluvial with moderate to deficient drainage, the pH 4.6, organic matter 6.7–7.2%, nitrogen 0.25–0.43% exchangeable potassium 0.45.


In Costa Rica, the trees are spaced roughly at 6 x 6 m, with > density of ca 280 trees/ha, interspersed with ca 4300 coffee plants/ha (Russo, 1982).


The trunks, some nearly 30 cm in diameter, are lopped ca head height or higher twice a year. The prunings are added to the soils as green manure (Russo, 1982).

Yields and Economics

The addition of organic matter due to the biennial loppings can run to 10 MT/yr, improving, if anything, the yield of the coffee intercrop (Russo, 1982).


Although not producing very good fuel, the biomass production could probably approximate or surpass 25 MT/ha/yr in monoculture, fixing N all the while.

Biotic Factors

The following diseases are reported from species of Erythrina: Cercospora erythrinae (on leaves), Cercospora erythrinicola, Clitocybe tabescens (root rot), Colletotrichum erythrinae (on leaves), Dicheirinia binata (rust), Meliola bicornis, Meliola crenatissima, Meliola erythrinae (black mildew), Meloidogyne sp. (root knot nematodes), Mycosphaerella erythrinae (on leaves), Nectria cinnabarina (on stems), Pellicularia kolerogna (thread blight), Phoma erythrinicola (on stems), Phyllosticta erythrinicola (leaf spot), Phymatotrichum omnivorum (root rot), Rhizoctonia ramicola (thread blight), and Verticillium sp. (probably albo-atrum) (wilt) (Agriculture Handbook 165).


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Tuesday, January 6, 1998 by aw