Coral trees are members of the genus Erythrina and are primarily found in South Africa and South America.

coral tree erythrina
Photo: Coral Tree (Erythrina) - Wikimedia Commons

There are approximately 112 different species of Erythrina around the world.

They are also found in Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, Asia, Australia, and even Hawaii. Some are used as street and park trees, especially in drier areas. Hummingbirds are attracted to the bright red flowers. In Venezuela, they are used as shade trees for coffee or cocoa crops. Native Hawaiians made a number of items from wiliwili (E. sandwicensis) wood because of its low density, such as fishing net floats, outrigger canoe floats and extremely long surfboards called olo, which averaged 18 feet and were exclusively ridden by royalty. The coastal coral tree (E. caffra) is the official city tree of Los Angeles. The seeds of at least one-third of the species contain potent erythrina alkaloids. They are all toxic to some degree and the seeds of some can cause fatal poisoning.