The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications

Erythrina americana Miller

 

American Coral Tree

 

Family

 

Leguminosae (Legume Family); Subfamily Papilionoideae

Forms and Subspecies

 

None

Synonyms

 

Corallodendron americanum Kuntze

Corallodendron triphyllum nom. nud.

Erythrina carnea Ait.

Erythrina enneandra DC.

Erythrina fulgens Loisel.

Folk Names

 

American coral tree, amerikanischer korallenbaum, bolita grande, cehst (Mixe), chakmolche’ (Mayan, “the tree of the red puma”), chak-moolché’, chocolín, chotza, colorín, cosquelite, demti (Otomí), equimite, hutukuu’ (Huastec), iquemite, iquimite, jiquimiti, k’ante’ (Mayan, “yellow tree”), korallenstrauch, lakatilá (Totonac), lakatili, lakatilo, lak’tanga, li-pashcua (Chontal), madre alcaparra, madre brava, madre cacao, madre chontal, ma-ja-ñú (Chinantec), palo de coral, pali de pite, parencsuni, patol, pat-olli, pichoco, pito, pito pichoco, puregue, purenchecua (Tarascan), purgne, quemite, quimiti, sompantle, sompantli, sumpantle, te’batai (Otomí), tlalni, tsejch (Mixe), tsizch, tu saba (Mixtec), tzinacancuáhuitl, tzite (Quiché), tzompancuahuitl (Aztec “tzompantli tree”),129 tzompantli, tzompomitl (modern Nahuatl), tzon të kichilo, uhkum, xk’olok’max (Yucatec Mayan), xoyo’ (Mayan), zompantli, zompantlibaum, zompantlibohne, zumpantle

The edible red flowers are known in Veracruz as gasparitos and in Nahuatl as cozquelite.

History

 

The red seeds have been found in prehistoric strata. The tree and its hieroglyph appear in pre-Columbian Mayan manuscripts (Codex Dresdensis) under the name k’ante’, “yellow tree” (Rätsch 1986, 223*). The tree is also mentioned in Aztec sources, as well as sources in other languages, from the early and late colonial period. The genus and many of its species were first described by Linnaeus.

Because of the paralyzing effects of the extract, this agent was once misused for vivisections (Roth et al. 1994, 327*).

In Veracruz, the flowers are cooked and eaten as a vegetable. They are regarded as an aphrodisiac food (Reko 1938, 127*; Ott 1993, 423*). The seeds were once used in a kind of dice game (patol) (Krukoff 1939, 210).

 

The luminous red flower of the American coral tree (Erythrina americana). (Photographed in Teotihuacán, Mexico)

 

 

This Aztec relief from the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlán (Mexico City) depicts a tzompantli, a rack for holding skulls from human sacrifices that was made from wood.

 

Distribution

 

The tree occurs from northern Mexico to Guatemala. It prefers a dry and warm climate. Its range is concentrated around central Mexico (Morelos, Puebla, Veracruz, Colima, Guerrero, Oaxaca) (Krukoff 1939, 299).

Cultivation

 

Cultivation is performed simply by planting pre-germinated seeds in the soil. The seeds should be watered well, but not too much. In Mexico, the tree has been planted as a living fence since pre-Columbian times (Krukoff 1939, 210).

Appearance

 

The American coral tree can grow to a height of some 6 to 8 meters. It has large, wide, and attenuate leaves that are attached to the stalks in clusters of three. The luminously red flowers can grow as long as 10 cm and are arranged in upright clusters. The tree loses its foliage in the winter. The flowers begin developing while the tree is still bare (January to March). The slightly constricted pods then ripen as the leaves emerge. The pods contain two to five bright red, bean-shaped seeds.

The tree is easily confused with the very similar species Erythrina mexicana Kruk. (whose seeds, like those of E. americana, are known as equimitl in Aztec) as well as with other Erythrina species. It is almost identical to Erythrina standleyana Kruk. and can be distinguished from the latter species only on the basis of its geographical distribution (Krukoff 1939, 300 f.).

Psychoactive Material

 

—Seeds (colorinesequimitltzite)

Preparation and Dosage

 

When intended for internal use, the seeds must be ground. The effective dosage is given as no more than half of a seed. But this guideline should be used with great care, as no dependable information is available!

Ritual Use

 

The pre-Columbian Maya associated this tree with the direction south, whose symbolic color is yellow. The Mayan name k’ante’, “yellow tree,” refers not to the color of the red flowers or the red seeds but to the yellow dye that is obtained from the root cortex (Krukoff 1939, 210). The tree is invoked in magical formulae uttered to treat possession (tancasil). In the prophetic texts of the shamanic jaguar priest (chilam balam), the plant is mentioned in an anthropomorphized form as a divine being known as ah kantenal, “he of the yellow tree” (Rätsch 1986, 223*). There are only a few vague indications that contemporary Yucatec Mayan shamans use the seeds for healing rituals and divinations (Garza 1990, 188*).

The Huastec still use the wood to make ritual masks (Alcorn 1984, 640*).

The traditional divinatory priests of the Kanjobal (Guatemala) still use the ancient Indian 260-day calendar for their divinations. They use the seeds of the coral tree to count the days. This calendar divination has been maintained into the present time and has an important function for the Kanjobal in solving personal problems and social conflicts (Hinz 1984).

In the Aztec culture, the coral tree was closely related to human sacrifice. Before the victims were disemboweled and butchered for sale at the great market of Tenochtitlán (present-day Mexico City), their heads were removed. The skulls were placed on a rack of vertical poles. They were speared onto the wooden stakes, so that the growing numbers of skulls were placed one on top of the other. In Aztec, this rack was known as a tzompantli (“skull frame”), and it was always located in close proximity to the main temple (Krickeberg 1975, 239). Several pre-Hispanic stone sculptures depicting the tzompantli have been preserved. Since it is known by the name tzompantli tree, the coral tree was directly or symbolically associated with this practice. Unfortunately, the sources do not provide us with any insights into the actual nature of this relationship. It is possible that the seeds were administered to the selected victims to sedate them (cf. Datura innoxiaBursera bipinnata). The wood the frame was made from was definitely not that of the coral tree, for coral tree wood is very soft and would not have provided sufficient support for the many skulls.

 

One of the earliest European illustrations of a botanically correct branch of the American coral tree. (Woodcut from Gerard, The Herball or General History of Plants, 1633)

 

Tzompanquauitl

It is a tree of average size; its round leaves are of average size. The name of its leaves, its foliage, its flowers is equimixochitl. [The flowers] are chili red, very chili red. They have no scent; they are useless, without any use, not necessary. This tzompanquauitl is honey-like, sweet; still it is somewhat hard of taste. It produces a bean. The name of this bean is equimitl; it is chili red like ayecotli. It is multiplied in the following way: the seed is planted; and the branch is only broken, cut in order to transport it, as with uexotl.”

 

BERNARDINO DE SAHAGUN FLORENTINE CODEX (BOOK 11)

 

Artifacts

 

The wood was and still is used to manufacture ritual objects, including masks and figures of gods (Aguilera 1985, 128f.*). In central Mexico, small ithyphallic images of gods were still being carved from the wood in the twentieth century; these were placed in the kitchen as a magical protection against food spoilage (Reko 1938, 127f.*).

A statue of the god Maximón made from the wood of a closely related species is still cultically venerated in the Guatemalan highlands, among the Tzutujil of Lago Atitlán. The fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) is associated with this sacred wooden figure of Maximón, who is said to have risen from a coral tree (Erythrina rubrinervia) when it was struck by lightning. According to legend, the tree had been standing in the midst of a group of fly agaric mushrooms when it was hit by the lightning bolt. A man is said to have eaten a piece of these mushrooms and become young again (Lowy 1980).

In Mexico, the red seeds are frequently used in the manufacture of amulets and necklaces:

 

It is also said that the seeds can incite love. According to folk belief, when a girl is wearing a chain of such seeds around her neck, she will soon become so incapable of resisting a man’s wishes that she will simply give herself to him.—Because of this tradition, it is probable that certain ladies who belong to the category of those who do not die as long as they love still like to decorate themselves with these ominous necklaces today so that they can tell the world of the living about the magic which affects them. (Reko 1938, 127*)

 

A beautiful portrait of the plant by the flower painter Georg Dionys Ehret (1708–1770) was published in 1750 in the Plantae selectae of Christoph Jakob Trew (Trew 1981, table 8*).

Medicinal Use

 

The modern Huastec use the leaves as a medicine for sleeplessness, restlessness, and “crying out at night” (Alcorn 1984, 640*). In Mexican folk medicine, a decoction of the flowers is ingested for chest pains. The juice tapped from the trunk is used for scorpion stings. The bark is drunk as a diuretic and purgative (Krukoff 1939, 210).

Constituents

 

The seeds and, to a lesser extent, the flowers and other parts of the plant contain erythrina alkaloids (erythrane, erythroidine, coralline, coralloidine, and erythro-coralloidine). The seeds have been found to contain 1.61% alkaloids (erysopine, erysovine, erybidine, erysodine, and erythrartine) (Lara Ochoa and Marquez Alonso 1996, 39*; Martínez 1994, 78*). The flowers contain 0.11% alkaloids (α-erythroidine and β-erythroidine) (Aguilar et al. 1981).

The raw drug is known as Mexican curare (Krukoff 1939, 205; Roth et al. 1994, 327*).

Effects

 

The seeds are said to produce a so-called women’s inebriation, i.e., nymphomaniac/ecstatic states with a strong desire for sex:

 

The first such intoxication is described in a report from the year 1719. An Indian woman prepared a dish from the red beans, which appeared to her to be edible, and gave this to other women. All who ate of it began to laugh without reason, babbled all kinds of nonsensical things, and talked shamelessly. Later, they reeled like drunkards and finally fell into a deep sleep, so that they had to be carried home.

In September 1738, an honorable young girl accidentally ate some of the red zompantli beans and shortly thereafter lost her mind. She ran through the streets with her skirt raised, laughing horribly, much to the dismay of the women and the derision of the men. Neighbors brought her back home, where she fell into a hot fever, ripped apart all of her bedding, and died on the third day thereafter. . . . In all of these cases, the ingestion of the red beans initially produced immoderate gaiety, then confused speech, wobbling as if drunk, and a heightened libido. The intoxicated persons then fell into a deep sleep, from which they usually did not reawaken. (V. Reko 1938, 129 ff.*)

 

These and similar reports describe the alleged effects of the red seeds. It is difficult to determine whether these are in fact authentic or belong to the domain of legend. In any case, these reports have had such an effect that since that time no one else has attempted to try the seeds himself.

In Mexico, the boiled flowers are eaten as a vegetable and produce mild hypnotic effects (Aguilar et al. 1981).

 

Botanical illustration of the American coral tree (Erythrina americana). (Colored copperplate engraving from Trew 1750.)

 

Commercial Forms and Regulations

 

In Mexico, colorines are available in the markets and in stores selling devotional articles. Indians often sell chains of the seeds near ruins and other tourist attractions.

 

The rain god Chac, with his tapir nose (= God B), is shown sitting on the k’ante’, the “yellow tree” of the south (Erythrina americana). (Codex Dresdensis, 31c)

 

Literature

 

See also the entry for Erythrina spp.

 

Aguilar, María Isabel, Francisco Giral, and Ofelia Espejo. 1981. Alkaloids from the flowers of Erythrina americanaPhytochemistry 20 (8): 2061–62.

 

Folkers, K., and R. T. Major. 1937. Isolation of erythroidin, an alkaloid of curare action, from Erythrina americanaJournal of the American Chemical Society 59:1580 ff.

 

Hargreaves, R. T., R. D. Johnson, D. S. Millington, M. H. Mondal, W. Beavers, L. Becker, C. Young, and K. L. Rinehart, Jr. 1974. Alkaloids of American species of ErythrinaLloydia 37:569 ff.

 

Hinz, Eike. 1984. Kanjobal Maya divination: An outline of a native psycho-sociotherapy. Sociologus 34 (2): 162–84.

 

Krickeberg, Walter. 1975. Altmexikanische Kulturen. Berlin: Safari-Verlag.

 

Krukoff, B. A. 1939. The American species of Erythrina. Brittonia 3 (2): 205–337.

 

Lowy, Bernard. 1980. Ethnomycological inferences from mushroom stones, Maya codices, and Tzutuhil legend. Revista/Review Interamericana 10 (1): 94–103.

 

Ramirez, E., and M. D. Rivero. 1935. Contribución al estudio de la acción farmocodinámica de la Erythrina americanaAnales del Instituto Biológico de la Universidad Nacionál de México 6:301–5.

 

Erythrina berteroana Urban

 

Pito Coral Tree

Family

 

Leguminosae (Legume Family); Subfamily Papilionoideae

Forms and Subspecies

 

None

Synonyms

 

None

Folk Names

 

Aposhí, aposí, chilicote, colorín, coral bean, coralina, k’änte’(Lacandon, “yellow tree”), peonía, pioneo, pito coral tree, pito-korallenbaum, tzinacancuáhuitl (Aztec), tzompantli

History

 

For the history of the coral trees, see Erythrina americana.

In Guatemala and El Salvador, the young flowers of this species of coral tree are eaten as a vegetable (fresh or frozen). When a large amount is consumed, the meal has sedative effects and induces a long and deep sleep. The tree is frequently cultivated in Central America (as a living fence). In former times, crushed branches were used as a fish poison (Morton 1994).

Distribution

 

This species is found primarily in Guatemala, El Salvador, and southern Mexico. It also occurs in central Mexico and in rare cases in northern Mexico.

Cultivation

 

The tree is difficult to grow from pregerminated seeds. In contrast, it is easily propagated from cuttings (of trunks or branches that have already become woody). It does not place any particular demands upon the soil. It should be watered well but not overly much. It does not tolerate any cold or frost (Grubber 1991, 26*).

Appearance

 

This shrublike tree, which can grow as tall as 9 meters, develops thorny branches. The 6 to 9 cm long leaves are arranged on the stems in groups of three. The red flowers (3 to 6 cm long) develop in loose, many-flowered clusters. The brilliant red, bean-shaped seeds are enclosed within the seed-pods (two or three per pod).

This tree is easily confused with the closely related species Erythrina flabelliformis (see Erythrina spp.).

Psychoactive Material

 

—Seeds (colorines)

Preparation and Dosage

 

One quarter or one half of a seed is chewed thoroughly and swallowed (Gottleib 1973, 9*). Otherwise, see Erythrina americana.

 

Botanical illustration of the pito coral tree (Erythrina berteroana). (Colored copperplate engraving from Trew, 1750)

 

 

Erythratine-N-oxide

 

 

The large flower of the coral tree known as pito (Erythrina berteroana) is edible. (Photographed in Naha’, Chiapas, Mexico)

 

 

A traditional string of red seeds of Erythrina berteroana, as produced by the Lacandon

 

“Almost all of the Indian women of this region (Nayarit) know about the colorines or zompantli beans which, when ingested, induce hot dreams and cause them to concern themselves with thoughts of fleshly desire. They say that one can eat only a very little of these, as too much will produce fever, pains in the breasts and lower abdomen, and a daze akin to drunkenness. They keep this custom a secret from the men. But in confession, some of them ask whether this agent is Christian or abominable, and to justify it they cite the advantage that those who use it never defile themselves with a man. I regard the bean as diabolic, for it clearly incites lewd behavior and probably also leads to infertility. It will therefore be no great wrong if its use is forbidden at every opportunity, in particular in conversations during confession.”

 

FATHER SALAMIELLA

 

FROM A LETTER IN THE ARCHIVE OF TEPIC

 

IN MAGISCHE GIFTE [MAGICAL POISONS]

 

(V. REKO 1938, 131 f.*)

 

Ritual Use

 

See Erythrina americana.

Artifacts

 

The seeds have been used to make necklaces since ancient times. They also are a component of amulets.

A botanically accurate portrait of the plant by the flower painter Georg Dionys Ehret (1708–1770) was published in 1760 in the Plantae selectae of Christoph Jakob Trew (Trew 1981, table 58*).

Medicinal Use

 

A tea made from the flowers is occasionally drunk as a “sleeping pill” (Morton 1994).

Constituents

 

The seeds contain erythrina alkaloids (erysodine, erysopine, erysothiopine, erysothiovine, α- and βerythroidine, and hypaphorine), which are also present in the flowers in lesser amounts. These alkaloids are responsible for the sedative effects.

The new alkaloid erythratine-N-oxide was isolated from this species (Soto-Hernandez and Jackson 1994).

Effects

 

The psychoactive effects of the seeds have been characterized as narcotic, sedative, and mildly inebriating, and purportedly also as aphrodisiac (cf. Erythrina americana).

Commercial Forms and Regulations

 

In southern and central Mexico, the red seeds can be obtained in Indian markets and shops that sell devotional articles. Indian women sometimes offer strings of seeds for sale in tourist areas (e.g., Palenque).

Literature

 

See also the entries for Erythrina americana and Erythrina spp.

 

Morton, Julia F. 1994. Pito (Erythrina berteroana) and chipilin (Crotalaria longirostrata), (Fabaceae), two soporific vegetables of Central America. Economic Botany 48 (2): 130–38.

 

Soto-Hernandez, M., and Anthony H. Jackson. 1994. Erythrina alkaloids: Isolation and characterisation of alkaloids from seven Erythrina species. Planta Medica 60:175–77.

 

Erythrina spp.

 

Coral Tree Species

 

Family

 

Leguminosae (Legume Family); Subfamily Papilionoideae

 

Coral trees are found primarily in the tropical zones of the New and Old Worlds (Standley 1919), although there are also species in Australia. The genus is composed of some one hundred species (Bärtels 1993, 142*). The seeds contain chiefly cytisine or other erythrina and curare-like alkaloids (El-Olemy et al. 1978; Wandji et al. 1994). It is for this reason that they generally are regarded as poisonous. Only the seeds of the Andean species Erythrina edulisTriana [syn. Erythrina esculenta Sprague, E. edulis Posada-Arango, E. lorenoi F. Maebr., E. megistophylla Diels] can be eaten (Bärtels 1993, 68*). They are often sold as “beans” at Indian markets. The seeds of some species contain lectins (Peña et al. 1988).

Erythrina corallodendron L. [syn. Erythrina corallodendron var. occidentalis L., E. spinosa Mill., E. inermis Mill., E. corallifera Salisb., Corallodendron occidentale Kuntze]—madre del cacao

 

This tree is indigenous to Central America, where it is found both in cultivation and in the wild. It is an important shade tree in the tropical cacao plantations (cf. Theobroma cacao). Its red seeds, known as colorines, are strung together to make bracelets and necklaces. They allegedly contain “hallucinogenic substances” (Bärtels 1993, 68*).

 

Erythrina falcata Benth.—seibo

This beautiful blooming tree is known in Peru as pisonay. It also occurs in Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay, as well as in northwestern Argentina, where it is known by the folk names seiboceiboseibo del noroesteseibo de jujuyseibo de saltaseibo de Tucumanseibo de la selvaseibo rosadoseiba, and suiñandi (Santos Biloni 1990, 21*). According to a physician in Tartagal (pers. comm.), it may also be called seibo silvestre, and it is said to be the source of a hallucinogenic snuff. The national tree of Argentina, Erythrina crista-galli L., is also known as seibo. It plays a role in numerous legends; it is said that an ugly Guaraní maiden named Anahí was transformed into the beautiful flower (Santos Biloni 1990, 171*).

 

Erythrina flabelliformis Kearney [syn. Erythrina purpusi Brand.]—fan-shaped coral bush

The shamans of the Tarahumara formerly used the seeds in rituals, although we do not know how (Bye 1979b, 38*). The seeds probably also were added to the tesgüino beer that was brewed from agaves (Agave spp.) or maize (Zea mays) to potentiate the effects (Bye 1979b, 38*). The seeds are or were strung into necklaces by northern Mexican Indians (Bye 1979b, 37*). They are used as an alternative to mescal beans (Sophora secundiflora). The Serí Indians of northern Mexico boil the seeds to produce a decoction that they drink to treat diarrhea (Felger and Moser 1974, 425*). The Pima Indians grind the seeds and mix them with lard to produce an ointment that is applied to treat inflammations. Partially ground seeds—which are regarded as poisonous—are swallowed as a purgative (Pennington 1973, 222*). The Tarahumara used the seeds to treat toothaches and lower abdominal ailments. The Indians of the Barranca de Batopilas region applied a kind of ointment made from ground seeds to their eyelids to improve their vision (Bye 1979b, 37*).

The seeds contain numerous erythrina alkaloids, including 14% erysotrine, 45% erysodine, 40% erysovine, and approximately 1% eryspine (Bye 1979b, 38*). The Tarahumara say that this plant produces erotic dreams. The extract has effects like those of curare (Díaz 1979, 87*). To date, there is no evidence that the plant produces psychoactive effects (Schultes and Hofmann 1980, 338*).

 

Erythrina fusca Lour.

This coral tree, known as amasisa or gachica, is found in Amazonia, where it is used as an ayahuasca additive. It has been found to contain the alkaloids erythraline, erythramine, and erythratine.

 

Erythrina glauca Willdenow—amasisa

The “blue” coral tree is found in the Amazon basin. It is known as amasisa in Colombia and as assacú-rana in Brazil. The Tikuna Indians boil the bark to wash out wounds. In Brazil, a tea made from the roots is drunk to treat rheumatic complaints and liver ailments, while higher dosages are used as a purgative. Very strong concentrations of the root tea are said to produce narcotic effects. The chemistry of this species is unknown (Schultes and Raffauf 1990, 241*). Parts of the plant are used as ayahuasca additives (Ott 1993, 217*).

 

Erythrina indica Lamarck [syn. Erythrina variegata L.]—mandara

This tree is sacred in India and Nepal, where it is associated both with the production of amrita, the drink of immortality (cf. soma), and with Shiva’s paradise. According to Vedic mythology, the tree arose when the milk of the primordial ocean was churned to make the drink of the gods. Indra saw the tree rise up from the depths and planted it in his pleasure garden. It is regarded as one of the five heavenly trees and is venerated for its abilities to fulfill wishes (kalpavriksha). Krishna stole the tree from Indra’s garden and brought it to humans. The wood of the mandara tree is sacred and is burned as a sacrificial offering on the fire altar known as homa. The bright red flowers are offered to Shiva, and the tree is generally closely associated with the god. The three leaves on each stalk symbolize the trinity of Hindu gods: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva (Gupta 1991, 39 f.*).

 

The enchanting flower of a Brazilian species of coral bush, Erythrina crista-galli

 

“The consumption of just a small amount of ‘colorines’ produces an extraordinary increase in blood pressure. For this reason, the Indians in the Sierra of Tlaltizepam (Michoacan) use this in the form of an extract for acts of revenge, when they wish that a person be struck by a ‘blow.’ ”

 

LUTZ ROTH, MAX DAUNDERER, AND KURT KORMANN GIFTPflANZENPflANZENGIFTE [POISONOUS PLANTS—PLANT POISONS]

 

(1994, 327*)

 

The seeds and bark of the species found in the Himalayas were or are used as a fish poison. It is quite possible that the tree was once used as a hallucinogen. In Sri Lanka, the trees are cultivated as a support for the cubeb pepper vine (Piper cubeba; cf. Piper spp.) to climb (Macmillan 1991, 415*). A tonic is prepared from the plant together with the leaves of Solanum nigrum L. (see Solanum spp.) and the seeds of Datura metel (Bhandary et al. 1995, 155 f.*).

 

Erythrina mulungu Mart.—mulungu

The bark of this Brazilian species was once used medicinally as a narcotic in the form of a Galenic preparation. It “contains a narcotic with opium-like effects” (Schneider 1974, 2:66*).

 

The Indian coral bush (Erythrina indica) in full bloom. This tree is venerated as sacred. (Photographed in the Arum Valley, Nepal)

 

 

The characteristically colored leaves of the cultivated Erythrina indica var. variegata cv.

 

 

This traditional necklace of the Aborigines of northeastern Australia incorporates Erythrina seeds in its design.

 

 

As the jaguar indicates, the Argentinean coral tree (Erythrina falcata), known locally as seibo, is clearly a shamanic tree that was or secretly still is used as a hallucinogen. (From Pedro de Montenegro, Materia médica misionera, seventeenth century)

 

 

Erythrina poeppigiana (Walpers) Cook

Parts of this coral tree, which is native to the Amazon basin, are used as ayahuasca additives (Ott 1993, 217, 270*). In Latin America, the flowers of this species are eaten as a vegetable or salad.

 

Erythrina standleyana Krukoff—chakmolche’, pito del monte

In Yucatán (Mexico), the seeds are believed to offer magical protection against “evil winds” (k’ak’as ìk’o’). The Maya place them on the altar for the rain ceremony ch’a’chak (cf. balche’) (Barrera M. et al. 1976, 303*). It is not known whether the seeds were or are used for psychoactive purposes. It is possible that this species is actually only a variety of Erythrina americana.

 

Erythrina vespertilio Benth.—batswing coral tree

This small tree is found in tropical eastern Australia, where the local Aborigines make the red, beanlike seeds into chains and (magical) ornaments. They also make shields from the wood of the tree (Pearson 1992, 106*). Whether the seeds were used for psychoactive purposes is unknown. The plant is rich in alkaloids (Collins et al. 1990, 40*).

 

Erythrina spp.

The seeds of many species of Erythrina are known as colorines and are used for magical as well as ethnopharmacological purposes (see the table at left). The ethnographic literature makes frequent mention of species that certainly were not compared to herbarium specimens and whose botanically identity may thus be incorrect. For this reason, it is not possible to provide a precise classification.

In Venezuela, the ashes of the wood of several Erythrina species known as bucare (also anaucoceiboimmortelle) are used as additives in the tobacco mixture known as chimó (see Nicotiana tabacum).

Literature

 

See also the entry for Erythrina americana.

 

Amer, M. E., M. Shamma, and A. J. Freyer. 1991. The tetracyclic Erythrina alkaloids. Journal of Natural Products 54:329–63.

 

Games, D. E., A. H. Jackson, N. A. Khan, and D. S. Millington. 1974. Alkaloids of some African, Asian, Polynesian and Australian species of ErythrinaLloydia 37:581ff.

 

Olemy, M. M. el-, A. A. Ali, and M. A. El-Mottaleb. 1978. Erythrina alkaloids. I. The alkaloids of the flowers and seeds of Erythrina variegataLloydia 41:342–47.

 

Peña, Claudia, Fanny Villarraga, and Gerardo Pérez. 1988. A lectin from the seeds of Erythrina rubrinerviaPhytochemistry 27 (4): 1045–48.

 

Standley, P. C. 1919. The Mexican and Central American species of ErythrinaContributions of the U.S. Herbarium 20:175–82.

 

Wandji, J., Z. Tanee Fomum, F. Tillequin, A. L. Skaltsounis, and M. Koch. 1994.

 

Erysenegalenseine H and I: Two new isoflavones from Erythrina senegalensisPlanta Medica 60:178–80.

 

 

In Mexico, the red seeds of the rain forest tree Ormosia are also known as colorines and are used to make necklaces.

 

 

The red-black seeds of an Ormosia species from the southern Mexican rain forest are also known as colorines.

 

 

A typical Mexican amulet, in the center of which is an Erythrina seed

 

 

In Mexico, the small black-red seeds known as rosary peas (Abrus precatorius) are also called colorines

 

 

These red mescal beans (Sophora secundiflora) are easily mistaken for the red seeds of the other tree legumes.

 

 

The red seeds of this southern Mexican Erythrina species are also known as colorines.