Take a Tour of the Coral Trees on the UCSB Campus


UCSB’s Coral Trees caught my attention when I was a graduate student back in the 1960s, and I still find them fascinating, even when not in bloom. However, when I recently attempted to learn more about specimens on our campus, I came up virtually empty handed. A search for “coral trees” on the UCSB website took me to the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity & Ecological Restoration’s web page, “Campus Flora: Coral Tree Collection,” but, apart from one picture, there was no detail.

The only other search hit on the UCSB site was The Interactive Campus Map which was created by the UCSB Department of Geography. It features an Exotic Flora Walking Tour in its Campus Flora layer that at least mentions the coral trees: “The cockspur coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli), the naked coral tree (Erythrina coralloides), and the coast coral tree (Erythrina caffra) are some of the most stunning tree specimens on campus. Native to South America, eastern Mexico, and South Africa respectively, these trees are often used ornamentally. Their display of fiery red flowers can be seen from February to June. This is especially apparent for the naked coral tree which flowers before its leaves emerge. The walkway near Coral Tree Café and the Student Affairs building (SAASB) is lined by these trees, along with other species of Erythrina.”

Out of curiosity, I asked Bryan Karaffa, the Project Manager for the Interactive Campus Map, if he had any other leads regarding Coral Trees. It turns out that there is a tremendous amount of data from CCBER that nobody has had the time to organize and make public, including, it turns out, information about our campus Coral Trees. Shortly after talking to Bryan, I received an email from him, saying: “Made a quick little map for you. It is all the plants with GENUS=Erythrina and symbolized by their common name. You can click on the features and get more information as well.”

Wow! All you have to do is ask! If you’d like to see something featured on the ICM, now you know whom to pester.

Image 1 for article titled "Take a Tour of the Coral Trees on the UCSB Campus"
Photo of a naked coral tree (Erythrina coralloides) depicted on the ICM. Erythrina is a genus of flowering plants in the pea family, Fabaceae. It contains about 130 species, which are distributed in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. The Coastal Coral Tree (E. caffra) is the official city tree of Los Angeles, California

Image 2 for article titled "Take a Tour of the Coral Trees on the UCSB Campus"
Screen shot of the Genus Erythrina (Coral Trees) map that Bryan whipped up. Note that it lists 8 species in the legend, but only 5 are pinpointed on the ICM. According to Bryan, the data base is old, and, evidently, some of the Coral Tree specimens are no longer with us.

Image 3 for article titled "Take a Tour of the Coral Trees on the UCSB Campus"
Bryan Karaffa, the CNT/ICM Coordinator for Geography, will listen to your requests. Seriously!