Erythrina vespertilio is a small, straggly tree, 6 – 10 m high, with thorns on the trunk and branches. The bark is creamy-grey, deeply furrowed and corky.
Leaves are bifoliolate or trifoliolate,10 – 15 cm long with leaflets broadly wedge-shaped or 3-lobed, resembling a bat’s open wings. Leaflets are 7-12 cm x 5-12 cm, the terminal leaflet, if present, is often longer and narrower than the others. The plant is deciduous in the dry season.
Scarlet to orange-red pea flowers 3 – 4 cm long are borne in terminal racemes 5 – 25 cm long. Flowering period is August to September. The seeds are orange to dark yellow in colour, bean-like, about 1.2 cm long and are borne in pods 6 – 12 cm x1.5 – 1.8 cm, the pods being constricted between the seeds.
The species will grow in a wide range of soils as long as drainage is good and it has plenty of sun.
Propagation is from seed or cuttings. Generally no seed treatment is required but light scarification may assist germination.
Photo: Keith Townsend