This image of the historic Naked Coral Tree (Eyrathina caffra) was captured this foggy morning, on April 2, 2019 at dawn. It grows on a knoll in the Italian Terrace Garden. This species of tree is native to South Africa. About 75 years ago, the seed was collected by the Robinsons while on one of their many plant expeditions. Now fully mature and in full bloom, it commands attention. It is named after the flower color and shape which resembles red coral found in the Indian Ocean. Because it flowers when there are no leaves present, it was named “Naked Coral Tree.” It is pollinated by perching birds and hummingbirds. This first tree, the mother to all Coral trees growing in the median of West San Vincente in Los Angeles, has since been designated as the official tree of Los Angeles.
I believe this image best captures the essence and integrity of this majestic beauty. Proof of its resilience, it has persevered environmental challenges, insect invasions, and the threat of development for over seven decades. It has battled the devil winds that twisted, maimed and sometimes broken its graceful limbs. And now dressed in its floral splendor, it has silently, without complaint, reached the final chapter of its stoic life. It has been captured by thousands of visitors in photographs and in perpetuity by one of our botanical illustrators. The botanical illustration of our beloved tree will be permanently archived at the garden and ultimately published in a book called a Florilegium. Further, we plan to propagate a cutting from this tree so the same genome will appear in the garden in perpetuity — that is after the current beauty completes its life and becomes the seed bed for the next generation.
We would like to inspire and share this natural wonder with all who would like to visit. We predict, with some degree of certainty, it will continue to flower through April, before it leaves out, fading to green for the summer.
Post and photo by Timothy Lindsay
Superintendent of Virginia Robinson Gardens
Botanical Illustration by C. Baltayian