Erythrina is a genus of some 108 species of shrubs and trees which are distributed widely throughout the tropics and sub-tropics. Several species thrive on waterlogged, or poorly drained, acid soils which are inhospitable to most legumes. While they have long been used in Africa, Asia and the Americas as ornamentals, living fence posts, supports for vine crops, green manure and as shade trees in plantations of coffee, their use as fodder trees has attracted much less attention until recent years. With increased awareness of the role of trees in animal production interest has focussed on the genus, despite concern over the effects on livestock of a range of alkaloids and flavonoids which are known to occur in the foliage. There are no reports of toxicity in domestic livestock. Indeed, use is made of many Erythrina spp. to treat a range of ailments in both human and veterinary medicine.
Erythrina is rich in crude protein but the digestibility of the foliage is only about 50%. Many species are well accepted by livestock, particularly small ruminants, and there is considerable potential for using them as dietary supplements. They may be of particular use in areas where there is a lack of other high-quality fodder species due to soil acidity and lack of drainage.