Erythrina poeppigiana

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Six months regrowth following hard pruning (pollarding) of trees in a coffee plantation in Costa Rica.

Natural tree form.


Hedgerows for alley cropping of maize (Zea mays) in Costa Rica.

Pruning one year old growth in a coffee plantation in Costa Rica.

Pollarded trees of Erythrina in a coffee plantation in Costa Rica.

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Scientific name

Erythrina poeppigiana (Walp.) O.F. Cook


Erythrina amasisa Spruce
Erythrina darienensis Standley
Erythrina micropteryx Urban
Erythrina pisamo Pos.-Arang.
Micropteryx poeppigiana Walp.


Family: Fabaceae (alt. Leguminosae) subfamily: Faboideae tribe: Phaseoleae subtribe: Erythrininae.  Also placed in: Papilionaceae.

Common names

dadap (Indonesian);  amapola de sombra, amasisa, barbatusco, brucayo, bucare, búcare, bucayo, bucayo gigante, cachimbo, cámbulo, elequeme, gallito, helequeme, immortelle, palo de boya, porÓ desombra, porÓ extranjero, porÓ gigante (Spanish).
The following names are used for several Erythrina spp.  Coral tree , mountain immortelle (English);  bois immortelle (French);  pito, porÓ (Spanish).

Morphological description

A large, tree with a moderately spreading crown rising from a long branchless bole.  Evergreen in humid tropical environments, but becoming fully or partially deciduous in seasonally dry environments.  Up to 25 m (occasionally 35 m) in height and 1 m (occasionally 2 m) in diameter.  Bark is greyish-brown to grey-brown, of variable roughness from smooth to slightly furrowed, with conical thorns on the branches and young twigs.
Leaves are alternate, trifoliolate, 15-30 cm long;  leaflets (folioles) rhomboid -oval or oval in shape, generally larger in saplings than in big trees;  two prominent cup-shaped glands below the paired lateral leaflets.
Flowers produced in orange or reddish racemes, 10-20 cm long; with 5 petals and 10 brown stamens per flower; upper petal wide and open.
Pods 12-25 cm long, falcate, slightly depressed between seeds, pointed at both ends, with a long peduncle ;  seeds brown, about 2 cm long, slightly curved, 1-2 cm long.  4,500 seeds/kg.


Native to:
Humid and subhumid tropical lowlands receiving 1,000-4,000 mm annual rainfall from Venezuala to Bolivia where it is evergreen .  Occurs in the riverine and upland forests of the Amazon and Orinoco Basins, and in the moist Pacific forests of Ecuador and Colombia.  Native to Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Cultivated as an introduced species throughout Central America, the Caribbean and South Asia.  Widely naturalised in Costa Rica and Trinidad.  Cultivated and naturalized trees are now found at elevations up to 1,500 m, with a few locations up to 2,000 m.


Primarily used to provide shade and nutrient-rich prunings or leaf-fall in tropical plantation crop systems.  Commonly used as living fence posts.  Also has potential in alley cropping systems as a N-rich hedgerow species.  Fodder is used as a ruminant feed.  Occasionally used as a low-quality fuelwood.


Soil requirements

Tolerates low soil fertility including acid-infertile soils to pH 4.3 and soil textures varying from heavy clays to coarse sands.  Acid-soil tolerance varies with provenance.  Tolerant of moderate soil alkalinity to pH 7.5.  Intolerant of saline soils.


Adapted to humid and subhumid regions with mean annual rainfall from 800-2,000 mm, occasionally to 4,000 mm.  Tolerant of temporary waterlogging and can be used to drain very wet soils.


Grows at low to mid-elevations (to 1,200 m asl) in the native range, but has naturalised to 2,000 m asl in exotic locations.  Average annual temperatures in these regions range from 22-24ºC, but E. poeppigiana will tolerate absolute maximum and minimum temperatures of 36 and 16ºC, respectively.  Top growth is killed by frost.


Prefers full sun, but will tolerate light shade.

Reproductive development

Pollinated by perching passerine birds.  Leaf-fall occurs in response to flowering and the severity of leaf-fall is proportional to the length and severity of the dry season.  Under humid conditions, leaf-fall is visible but not severe.


Intolerant of severe, regular pruning.  For highest production, defoliate a maximum of twice a year leaving 10-25% of leaf area intact to facilitate regrowth.  Survives complete pruning twice a year but will be killed by more frequent pruning.  Complete mortality of N-fixing nodules occurs with heavy defoliation and re-establishment of nodules does not occur until 6 weeks after pruning.
There is anecdotal evidence from CATIE, Costa Rica that E. poeppigiana can tolerate direct grazing over a 12-month period.


No information available.


Guidelines for the establishment and management of sown pastures.


Easily propagated from stem cuttings 0.5-1.0 m in length, from branches at least 2-years old, from trees 5-8 years old.  Animals will damage stem cuttings and must be excluded until an extensive root system has developed.
Can also be planted from seedlings or direct planted into the field from seed.  Seedlings establish rapidly but weeds should be controlled during the first year of growth to ensure rapid establishment.
As a shade and mulch tree in coffee plantations, E. poeppigiana should be planted at 6 x 6 m spacing if pruned twice annually, and at 12 x 12 m spacings if unpruned.


Not generally fertilised when planted as a forage.  Relies on fertiliser applied to plantation crops (eg. coffee) when planted as a shade tree .

Compatibility (with other species)

Not generally used as a component of a direct-grazed pasture.  Has been grown experimentally in hedgerows with sward -forming tropical grasses (eg. Brachiaria decumbens ) in the inter-row.

Companion species

Used as a shade and mulch crop over coffee.  Planted as a hedgerow in maize (Zea mays ) and bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) alley farming .

Pests and diseases

A range of fungal diseases attack E. poeppigiana including leaf spots (Cercospora, Phyllosticta and Colletotrichum spp.) wilts (Verticillium spp.) and black mildew (Meliola spp.).  It is affected by root knot nematodes (Meloidigyne spp.).
E. poeppigiana is a host for June beetles (Phyllophaga menetriesi) which lay eggs on young leaves.  The larvae subsequently feed on the roots of associated crops including maize, although the damage is reported to be minor.

Ability to spread

Will not spread under grazing.

Weed potential

None reported in the literature.  Related species were also of relatively low weed potential.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

Leaves contain 20-22% DM and 26-34% crude protein (4.1-5.4% N).  IVDMD ranges from 49-58%.  The relatively low IVDMD is related to high cell wall content.  Young leaves can have much higher CP content (up to 38%) and IVDMD (up to 74%).


Well accepted by pen-fed goats, even as the sole feed.


The seeds, bark and roots contain the alkaloids erysodine, erysopine, erysothiovine, erysovine and hypaphorine and can be ground to produce insecticides and a preparation to stun fish so that they can be easily caught.  Leaves are also reported to contain toxic alkaloids but no adverse affects have been reported for cattle or goats consuming the forage .

Production potential

Dry matter

In Costa Rica, DM yields of up to 20 t/ha/year of leaf and stems have been produced yielding 450 kg of N, but yields of 10 t/ha/year are more common.  Planting density has little influence on DM yield at densities from 1,500-4,000 trees/ha as individual trees at low densities grow larger.  Very high densities (60,000 trees/ha) will reduce forage yields.
The productivity and quality of the Pennisetum hybrid , P. purpureum x P. americanum was assessed alone and in a mixture with E. poeppigiana was assessed in Costa Rica.  At a density of 3,333 plants/ha of E. poeppigiana and with 3 cuts/year the mixture produced 31 t/ha/year DM and 2.82 t/ha CP .  Lower plant densities and more frequent cutting reduced yields.  The Pennisetum hybrid alone produced only 22 t/ha DM and 1.03 t/ha CP .

Animal production

In Costa Rica, goats supplemented with E. poeppigiana produced 1.26 kg/day milk, compared with 1.11 kg/day for those supplemented with Gliricidia sepium .  In a related study no improvements in the productivity of cattle supplemented with E. poeppigiana were reported, but higher economic returns were achieved.
In Costa Rica, crossbred dairy cattle consuming a basal diet of low quality grass hay , rice bran and molasses supplemented with E. poeppigiana or Gliricidia sepium produced 7.3 and 7.4 kg/day milk respectively, compared with 6.7 kg/day for those supplemented with urea.
Lactating goats fed a basal diet of king grass (Pennisetum purpureum x P. americanum) and bananas, not supplemented or supplemented with fresh E. poeppigiana leaves at 1.5% of body weight, produced milk yields of 326 and 820 g/day respectively, with DM intake of 2.96 and 4.3% of body weight respectively.  Lambs gained 74-128 g/day when fed E. poeppigiana at 3.5% of live-weight.  The range of weight gains accounts for other supplements added. 
Milk production in humid tropical Costa Rica was 10.5 kg/day when a basal diet of grass was supplemented with soya flour, 11.0 kg/day with fish flour supplement, 9.6 kg/day with E. poeppigiana supplement, and 9.3 kg/day with urea supplement.  Economic net benefit was the highest using the E. poeppigiana supplement.


No breeding programs were reported in the literature.  2n = 42.

Seed production

Pruning trees once a year will impede flowering.  No information regarding seed production was cited.

Herbicide effects

No information available.



Other comments

E. poeppigiana is known to be a very efficient producer of N.
Trees have brittle branches and a superficial root system and are susceptible to limb breakages or being uprooted in strong winds.

Selected references

Beer, J. (1993) Cordia alliodora and Erythrina poeppigiana spacing effects on the amount of E. poeppigiana pollarding residues in a coffee plantation. In: Westley, S.B. and Powell, M.H. (eds) Erythrina in the New and Old Worlds. Nitrogen Fixing Tree Research Reports, Special Issue 1993. pp. 102-120.
Benavides, J. (1994) Follaje de porÓ (Erythrina poeppigiana ) y fruto de musáceas como suplementos para rumiantes menores. In: Benavides, J. (ed.) Arboles y Arbustos Forrajeros en América Central. pp. 341-356. (CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica).
Borel, R. and Benavides, J. (1993) Biomass production by Erythrina poeppigiana (Walpers) O.F. Cook in a high-density plantation. In: Westley, S.B. and Powell, M.H. (eds) Erythrina in the New and Old Worlds. Nitrogen Fixing Tree Research Reports, Special Issue 1993. pp. 211-216.
Camero Rey, A. (1994) Erythrina poeppigiana and Gliricidia sepium as protein supplements for milk production. Agroforesteria en las Americas, 1, 6-8.
Camero, A., Vasquez, R., AlagÓn, G., Kass, M. and Romero, F. (1993) Uso de Erythrina poeppigiana como suplemento a forrajes con bajo contenido proteico. In: Westley, S.B. and Powell, M.H. (eds) Erythrina in the New and Old Worlds. Nitrogen Fixing Tree Research Reports, Special Issue 1993. pp. 231-236.
Esnaola, M.A. and Ríos, C. (1994) Hojas de porÓ (Erythrina poeppigiana ) como supplemento proteico para cabras lactantes. In: Benavides, J. (ed.) Arboles y Arbustos Forrajeros en América Central. pp. 283-294. (CATIE, Turrialba, Costa Rica).
Fassbender, H.W., Beer, J., Heuveldop, J., Imbach, A., Enriquez, G. and Bonneman, A. (1991) Ten year balances of organic matter and nutrients in agroforestry systems at CATIE, Costa Rica. Forest Ecology and Management, 45, 173-183.
Kass, D.L. (1994) Erythrina species - Pantropical multipurpose tree legumes. In: Gutteridge, R.C. and Shelton, H.M. (eds) Forage Tree Legumes in Tropical Agriculture. pp. 84-96. (CAB International, Wallingford, UK).
Nygren, P. & Ramírez, C. (1995) Production and turnover of N2 fixing nodules in relation to foliage development in periodically pruned Erythrina poeppigiana (Leguminosae) trees. Forest Ecology and Management, 73, 59-73.

Internet links



Country/date released


None released to date.          

Promising accessions

Promising accessions



None reported.