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Plants: Species Collection: Coral Trees (Erythrinas)

No matter what season you visit the San Diego Zoo, you're likely to receive a blazing welcome from its coral trees, even before you step through the entrance. The striking trees grace the parking lot, the entrance plaza, and many places throughout the grounds, and there's at least one coral tree or another in bloom practically all year around. With 53 of the 110-plus known Erythrina taxa, we have the largest coral tree collection in the continental U.S. Many of our coral trees are among the largest of their kind in the United States, including the Erythrina lysistemon by the Skyfari's eastern terminal.

Coral tree blossoms come in shades ranging from a subtle pale peach to brilliantly vivid orange-reds. The flaming blossoms are often pollinated by birds, with the Old World coral species pollinated by perching birds and the New World species pollinated by hummingbirds. At the Zoo, however, the hummingbirds don't differentiate--they pollinate Old and New World species alike, since coral tree blooms tend to produce almost a thimbleful of nectar per flower!

Because the Zoo's gorgeous corals and often-attendant hummers have inspired many a San Diegan to plant coral trees in their own yards, we offer one word of advice to those who are thinking of joining the ranks of Erythrina propagators: Don't overwater your coral trees, or they'll grow too rapidly and produce weak wood that breaks easily.