Also known as Ceibo, it comes from South America (Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina). It is the national flower and tree of both Argentina and Uruguay.
Its scientific name refers to its characteristic flowers: Erythrina from the Greek erytros (red) and crista-galli, from the Latin, refers to the shape of the flower similar to the crest of a cockerel. The vernacular names it receives follow a similar pattern: coral tree, cockerel, cock's beak... although it also receives native names such as ceibo, sananduva, cachimbo or bucaré.
The aggressive crimson of its flowers is accompanied by stems and petioles full of thorns and a twisted, rough trunk that cracks easily, giving the appearance of longevity that is not always the case. As is usual in the Fabaceae, its fruit is an elongated legume (about 15 cm) of a dark colour.
The ceibo has the honour of being the national tree on both sides of the estuary of the Mar de Plata, and there is a legend from oral tradition:
Legend has it that on the banks of the Paraná there lived an ugly little Indian girl, with coarse features, called Anahí. Although she was ugly, on summer afternoons she delighted all the people of her Guaraní tribe with her songs inspired by their gods and the love of the land they owned.... But then came the invaders, those brave, bold and brave white-skinned beings, who ravaged the tribes and took away their lands, their idols, and their freedom.
Anahi was taken captive along with other indigenous people. She spent many days weeping and many nights in vigil, until one day when sleep overcame her sentinel, the little Indian managed to escape, but in doing so, the sentinel awoke, and she, to achieve her goal, plunged a dagger into the chest of her guardian, and fled swiftly into the jungle.
The cry of the dying jailer awoke the other Spaniards, who set out in pursuit, which turned into a hunt for poor Anahi, who was soon overtaken by the conquistadors. The conquistadors, in revenge for the death of the guardian, punished her by burning her at the stake.
They tied her to a tree and started the fire, which seemed unwilling to extend its flames towards the indigenous maiden, who, without murmuring a word, suffered in silence, with her head tilted to one side. And as the fire began to rise, Anahi gradually turned into a tree, identifying herself with the plant in an astonishing miracle.
The next dawn, the soldiers were confronted with the spectacle of a beautiful tree with shining green leaves and velvety red blossoms, displayed in all its splendour as a symbol of courage and strength in the face of suffering.