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PLANT PROFILE

PLANT: Erythrina herbacea, also known as coral bean and sometimes cherokee bean.

ORIGIN: Florida native.

CHARACTERISTICS: This spiny shrub or small tree makes a spectacular spring display of pinkish red-tubular flowers, sometimes attracting hummingbirds as they migrate during late April and May. Leaves come after the blooms; they're bright green and ivy-shaped, and appear by June. (NOTE: The bright red seeds, which appear in fall, are poisonous to humans.)

GROWING TIPS: Oak leaves or other mulch can simulate the leafmold of native woods where this plant thrives. It is most attractive when planted where its flowers will be seen against a blue sky. Coral bean is drought-tolerant but also does well in irrigated landscapes. Pruning can produce more flowers.

SHOWN: An old, gnarled Erythrina given new life when cut back severely by Floretta George at her St. Petersburg home.

_ BETTE SMITH, Times gardening correspondent

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