Tiger’s claw tree/ Indian Coral tree/ Gadha-palash/ Pangra (Erythrina variegata ) A beautiful, thorny deciduous tree with a thin bark that grows to a height of over 50 feet. The tree is breathtakingly beautiful in blossom with striking clusters of upward facing bright orange-red flowers at ends of thorny branchlets that give the tree its popular name, ‘Tiger’s Claw’. The seed pods can be a foot long and the tree is also called the Magic Bean tree on account of the kidney shaped red beans (seeds) that are eaten in some areas and are strung together to form necklaces and bracelets. The bark and leaves are used in Ayurveda to treat joint pains, eye and ear ailments, erectile dysfunctions etc. The leaves are used as animal fodder and are rich in protein. The leaves are also used to prepare green manure.
As per Hindu mythology Lord Krishna stole the flowers of the Coral tree from Indra’s garden and his wives quarreled over their possession! The bright orang- red flowers draw bees and wasps, as also parakeets, sunbirds and barbets. The flowers are used to prepare a strong scented dye.
The coral tree improves soil fertility by fixing nitrogen. Its used as a shade tree in coffee and cocoa plantations, particularly in Coorg. The vertical root system makes the tree drought tolerant.