December 19, 2014

What's Blooming Now

The brilliant-red, narrow flowers of coral bean cascade from branches that are almost bare, inviting passing hummingbirds to sip their nectar. More than 100 species of coral bean shrubs and trees grow in warm areas all over the world. In Southwest Florida, it blooms year round, making it a favorite with landscapers. The two- to three-inch flowers at the base of each cluster mature first; and a progression of maturing flowers proceeds toward the tip, creating a continuing cone of red and placing developing seed pods below fresh blooms. When mature, pods split open to reveal shiny red seeds, allowing passing birds to assist in dispersing the seeds to new areas.

The bright-red beans are poisonous, so the plant shouldn't be used in areas with small children. Cold weather can kill the above-ground parts of coral bean, but it usually sprouts anew from the roots.