Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bat’s Wing Coral Tree

Erythrina numerosa

Now is the time to get out to Prince Henry Drive, to see this glorious tree in flower. It’s really excelling itself this year.

This is also a great opportunity for birdwatchers to see the smaller honeyeaters which flock to the flowers.

If you’re like me, you’ll want to wear your bushwalking boots and get out three times along the route for a little walk down the slope, to appreciate this beautiful plant to the maximum.

If you're not into stopping and walking, do at least get someone else to drive you, so you have time to look across the hillside and appreciate just how many hundreds of these trees grow in this area. They tend to be inconspicuous until this time of the year, when they drop their leaves and blossom profusely.

The “batwing” leaves vary in shape according to the age of the trees, with those on young trees being particularly ornamental.

These coral trees grow naturally in and on the edges of dry rainforest. Their presence all over these slopes tells us that this environment was once extensive there.
There are few large trees in the area. Normally, we would expect to see them with diameters of up to 80cm, in the gullies and more sheltered places, but no doubt the fires which occasionally ravage the area keep them under control
Bat’s wing coral trees are easy to grow, provided they can be protected from frost in their early years. They also need to be protected from hares, wallabies, cattle, camels, etc, until their edible leaves and twigs reach a safe height.
Not everyone loves them, because of their prickles. The trunks of young plants, bristle with very sharp ones (which they need because so many animals find them tasty). I have found it worthwhile to go over the trunks of the trees in my garden with manicure clippers, to create something a bit more hand-friendly and child-safe.
As the trees age, the bark tends to grow over the prickles, and old trees have smooth trunks. Removing the tips does mean that they disappear all the sooner.

The soft timber was regarded as valuable by aborigines, who used it for coolamons and shields. Coral tree shields were also used as a base, when making fire with the friction method. European settlers used it for floats for fishing nets, polo balls, and brake blocks for horse and bullock-drawn vehicles.
The very hard orange seeds have a long history of use for jewellery.


The Modern Poet said...

Hi Patricia,
My partner and I have property in Calliope Shire in Central Queensland (Gladstone area)We have found numerous bat's Wing trees, one of which is over three metres tall. I was directed to your site from Yahoo7's Q&A. Thanks for the info. I was intrigued to find that they are a native.

Patricia Gardner said...

They are lovely things, aren't they? They probably get up to 6 metres or more, here, on sheltered slopes.
And yes, people are often surprised to discover just how many attractive native plants we have in Australia. There are about 25,000 Australian natives - but we have introduced a whopping 27,000 non-natives! No wonder our unique native flora struggles for recognition.

Davis said...

Hi Patricia, were you able to confirm the species of Erythrina in your photo? The furrowed bark doesn't look anything like Erythrina Numerosa. We have 20m tall Numerosa here and they are very much smooth barked (no corking/furrowing, not even grey in colour, more yellowy/green). Thank you for a very informative website.

Patricia Gardner said...

Thanks for that.
You are quite right, and I have removed the offending photo, which was actually of the trunk of E. vespertilio.
I am guilty of careless updating of an older article.
Will post photos of the trunk of the right plant sometime when I have taken them.