Erythrina lysistemon, Zulu name: umSinsi
Have you seen the orange blaze at the bottom of the Umngeni Valley Nature Reserve that is a group of Erythrina lysistemon in flower?
This variety is not usually found in this area and certainly not in the misty midlands. There are some splendid specimens to be found planted in old farm gardens but naturally they occur further east in warmer locations.
So, the Umngeni Valley group is a bit of a mystery. The trees are planted around the grave sites in the area once inhabited by Chief Ngwenya and his followers. Stone walls indicate cattle enclosures and perhaps homesteads. It is thought that the seed of these trees was collected further east and planted around the grave of the Chief.
The dwarf Erythrina humeana does occur naturally in Umngeni Valley and red splashes can be seen over the edges of the cliffs when it blooms later in summer.
Erythrina lysistemon flowers when the winter solstice has past to remind us that spring is on the way. It is easily grown from truncheons or from the lovely red seeds, which are considered lucky beans by generations of KZN school children. The flowers attract many birds and insects and animals browse on the bark and leaves, making this an essential plant for your wildlife friendly garden.
In Mpondoland, I spotted Erythrina truncheons, used as fencing posts, growing into trees. Such a great idea!
At Hilton College, beautiful specimens of the large leafed Erythrina latissima are set off against the white walls and bear sculptural seed pods. Spectacular when the annual Hilton Arts Festival takes place in September.