Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Erythrina vespertilio Benth.

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Flowers. © B. Gray
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, semi-hypogeal, hypogeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO

Bentham, G. (1848) Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia : 218. Type: Subtropical New Holland. Fide Krukoff & Barneby (1974).

Common name

Coral Tree; Cork Tree; Bat-wing Coral Tree; Batswing Coral Tree; Brake-block Pine; Corkwood; Grey Corkwood; Pine, Brake-block; Heilaman Tree


Deciduous; leafless for a period in the dry season. Dead bark pale and corky.


Pairs of globular or cylindrical glands present on the upper surface of the compound leaf axis where the middle and lateral leaflets are attached. Leaflet blades about 3-10 x 6.5-12 cm. Leaf bearing twigs sometimes densely beset with spines but sometimes completely free of spines.


Calyx about 15-20 mm long. Standard about 30 mm long, much longer than any of the other petals. Stamens usually 10 (nine with the filaments united to form a tube and one stamen free). Usually flowering when leafless.


Pods +/- circular in transverse section but constricted between the seeds. Pods about 11-15 cm long. Seeds +/- reniform. Testa bright red.


Taproot thickened, carrot-like (Daucus carota). Cotyledons fleshy, about 15-17 x 5-6 mm, not or scarcely raised above the soil surface. First pair of leaves triangular. At the tenth leaf stage: leaflet blades triangular or broadly bilobed like butterfly wings, base cuneate or broadly cuneate; petiole and rhachis usually with a few small thorns; stipules about 2-3 mm long; stem often with a few small recurved thorns. Seed germination time 8 to 10 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Endemic to Australia (?), occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards to north-eastern New South Wales, also occurs in central Australia. Altitudinal range in northern Australia from near sea level to 800 m. Grows in open forest and monsoon forest.

Natural History & Notes

This plant was used in colonial medicine, leaves a reputed sedative. Cribb (1981).

Erythrina vespertilio Benth. var. vespertilio, Bibliotheca Botanica 89(3): 775(1926). Erythrina vespertilio var. typica Domin, Bibliotheca Botanica 89(3): 775(1926). Erythrina vespertilio var. biloba (F.Muell.) Domin, Bibliotheca Botanica 89(3): 775(1926). Erythrina biloba F.Muell., Hooker's Journal of Botany and Kew Garden Miscellany 9: 21(1857), Type: In collibus plantitiebusque graniticis prope originem rivi Sturts Creek, 1849, T. L. Mitchell 189; holo: K.
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