Cockspur coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli)

Cockspur coral tree is a deciduous shrub or tree with red flowers. It is a weed of waterways and floodplains, particularly in coastal areas.

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How does this weed affect you?

Cockspur coral trees can dominate waterways and floodplains by outcompeting native vegetation. They also have major negative effects on soil stability and nutrient levels.

Human health

Cockspur coral tree leaves can make people feel unwell if eaten.

 What to do if a person is poisoned:

  • If the patient is unconscious, unresponsive or having difficulty breathing dial 000 or get to the emergency section of a hospital immediately.
  • If the patient is conscious and responsive call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or your doctor.
  • If going to a hospital take a piece of the plant for identification.

What does it look like?

Cockspur coral is a small tree or shrub trees that can grow to 6 m tall. They lose their leaves in winter.

Leaves are:

Made up of three leaflets which are:

  • 3–6 cm long and 2–5 cm wide
  • oval with a narrow tip and smooth edges
  • on a stalk 5 - 10 cm long
  • hairless.

Flowers are:

  • scarlet-red
  • 4–5 cm long
  • pea-shaped with the largest petal bent backwards when the flower is fully open
  • in clusters 8–30 cm long at the ends of branches
    • often with three groups of flowers
    • with 20–40 flowers in each group.

Fruit are:

  • large curved pods
  • 8-22 cm long
  • green when young dark brown or black when mature
  • slightly narrowed around each seed (3–12 seeds/ pod).

Seeds are:

  • about 10-15 mm long
  • brown or black
  • shiny.

Stems:

  • have cone-shaped prickles
  • brown or greyish and rough-barked when mature
  • green, shiny and hairless when young.

Similar looking plants

Cockspur coral tree looks similar to:

  • another weed called the common coral tree (Erythrina x sykesii) which has larger leaves and produces its flowers before new leaves appear in spring.
  • the native batswing coral tree (Erythrina vespertilio) which has much wider leaves (up to 12 cm wide) and smaller, usually darker red flowers.
  • the native Pine Mountain coral tree (Erythrina numerosa) which is a tree to 20m in height with corky bark and stout prickles. The flowers are salmon to orange in colour.

Where is it found?

Cockspur coraltree has been grown as an ornamental garden plant. It has become invasive along waterways in coastal areas of New South Wales from Sydney to the Queensland border.

It is native to South America.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Cockspur coral trees grow along riverbanks and on floodplains, swamps and wetlands. They can grow in tropical, sub-tropical and wet temperate areas.

Maps and records

  • Recorded presence of Cockspur coral tree during property inspections (Map: Biosecurity Information System - Weeds, 2017-2020)
    These records are made by authorised officers during property inspections under the Biosecurity Act 2015. Officers record the presence of priority weeds in their council area and provide this to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Records reflect the presence of the weed on the date of inspection.

  • Estimated distribution of Cockspur coral tree in NSW (Map: NSW Noxious Weed Local Control Authorities, 2010)
    Map shows weed distribution and density estimated by local council weeds officers in 2010.

How does it spread?

They were cultivated as an ornamental garden plant. 

By seed

Flowing water moves the pods and seeds. They can also be moved with garden waste.

By plant parts

Cut or broken branches can develop roots and form new plants. These can be spread by dumped garden waste or flood waters

More information

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Control

Successful weed control requires follow up after the initial efforts. This means looking for and killing regrowth or new seedlings. Using a combination of control methods is usually more successful.

 To tackle cockspur coral tree:

  • remove any trees from gardens
  • control mature trees to reduce seed production
  • check for regrowth and control seedlings near mature trees each month for at least 6 months.

Physical removal

By hand

Hand-pull or dig out small seedlings.

Chemical control

Cut stump method

Cut trunks or stems and apply herbicide to the stump immediately (within 15 seconds of cutting). Dispose of cut sections or check regularly for sprouting.

Stem injection

Drill or make cuts into the sapwood and fill with herbicide immediately (within 15 seconds of making the cut).

Spraying

There is a permit for spraying but only in the Mid North Coast, Northern Rivers and Far North Coast of NSW. Apply herbicide from October to May by foliar application using knapsack or handgun. Only apply to plants less than 4 m tall or if using a kanpasack only trees less than 1.5 m tall.

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


PERMIT 88282 Expires 28/02/2023
Picloram 100 g/L + Triclopyr 300 g/L + Aminopyralid 8 g/L (Grazon Extra®)
Rate: 500 mL / 100 L water plus surfactant.
Comments: This permit is only for Mid North Coast, Northern Rivers and Far North Coast of NSW. Apply from October to May by foliar application using knapsack or handgun. Read permit and label for more conditions.
Withholding period: Where product is used to control woody weeds in pastures there is a restriction of 12 weeks for use of treated pastures for making hay and silage; using hay or other plant material for compost, mulch or mushroom substrate; or using animal waste from animals grazing on treated pastures for compost, mulching, or spreading on pasture/crops.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 88282 Expires 28/02/2023
Triclopyr 300 g/L + Picloram 100 g/L (Grazon® DS)
Rate: 500 mL / 100 L water plus surfactant.
Comments: This permit is only for Mid North Coast, Northern Rivers and Far North Coast of NSW. Apply from October to May by foliar application using knapsack or handgun. Read permit and label for more conditions.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


PERMIT 9907 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1 part glyphosate to 1.5 parts water
Comments: Cut stump/drill/axe cut/inject
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


Picloram 44.7 g/kg + Aminopyralid 4.47 g/L (Vigilant II ®)
Rate: Undiluted
Comments: Cut stump/stem injection application. Apply a 3–5 mm layer of gel for stems less than 20 mm. Apply 5 mm layer on stems above 20 mm .
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
North Coast
Exclusion zone: whole region excluding the core infestation area of Richmond Valley Council, Ballina Shire Council, Lismore Council, Kyogle Council, Byron Shire Council and Tweed Shire Council
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: The plant or parts of the plant should not be traded, carried, grown or released into the environment. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Core infestation area: Land managers should reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfil the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2020