Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sea-Beans and Drift-Seeds 102

Our beaning has been well received and we are happy to be writing about something that may hold interest or intrigue for a few of our readers.  Especially since we've got many more beans to present.  So, thanks for the emails that let us know ya like our beans!

We'll pick up where we left off and continue on with some of our more frequent finds.

Let's start with the Mucuna family of beans.

Our current collection divided into Brown and Red with a few Purses, a Bulls Eye and a possible Holtonii thrown in since they are 'related'.

Mucuna is a rather tricky genus that requires ongoing study.  For example, a Mucuna  sloanei from Belize may be slightly different in appearance than a Mucuna sloanei from Costa Rica.

So, let's just say, you shouldn't hold us to the identifications of our found beans in this or related categories.  It is work in progress when it comes to these.  But we'll give you an introduction, at least.

About 160 species of Mucuna are recognized worldwide, most being climbing vines or shrubs.  The most common to float up on our beaches are the sloanei and urens.

Mucuna_sloanei flower
  The flower of the Mucuna Sloanei - otherwise known as the brown Hamburger Bean.

The legumes producing the beans typically are clothed in stinging hairs. 

Mucuna Sloanei
           The hairs are quite small but they are there in great numbers!

Although many plants / flowers are pollinated by bees the Mucuna's are pollinated by bats.  Their flowers hang down on a rope like stalk well below the canopy thus permitting easy access to the night flying creatures.

                 Brown Hamburger Beans or Horse Eyes - Mucuna sloanei.

The species lives in swamp forests, at borders of rivers and lakes, in savanna woodland and wet places in secondary vegetation over a vast distribution area including Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific islands.

Their pods contain a potentially toxic amino acid L-dopa. [L-dopa, precursor of the brain neurotransmitter dopamine] which is why some believe they are good for patients suffering from Parkinson's Disease.  Take caution though and do your research.

The Red Hamburger or Mucuna urens is pretty similar to the brown in looks.

There could be a few browns mixed in here but as you can see the reds are a brighter variety.  They also tend to present with spots or speckles.

Mucuna urens
The flower of the Mucuna urens or Red Hamburger Bean is a bit different than that of the brown.

Mucuna urens is distributed throughout much of the American Tropics as well as on Pacific islands.

            Red Hamburger Bean seed pod

The seed pod of the Mucuna has an enzyme called mucunain that causes itchy blisters but other components of the seed pod are used in shamanic rituals in South America to induce visions! The plant itself has many medicinal properties.  In addition to its potential to help with Parkinson's, it is believed to help with urinary tract infections, fevers, ulcers and many other ailments! These sea beans are also polished and made into jewelry.

Hamburger beans, besides looking like a burger in a bun, are most easily identified by their happiness factor.

                                            They've got dimples!

The Reds (on left) being more parentheses and the brown (on right) more bracket like.

There is another bean that we collect on our local beaches that is a close relative to the Mucuna or Hamburger.  It is the Dioclea reflexa and is commonly referred to as the Sea Purse.

The key difference between these and the hamburgers is that their "burger" or hilum is more like a thin zipper.  They also tend to have a flat section with no hilum.

The Dioclea reflexa finds itself located in the dense rain forests of places like Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Central America, South America, southeastern Africa (Madagascar) and tropical western Africa (Nigeria).

dioclea reflexa
                          The flowers of the Sea Purse plant are purple.

dioclea reflexa pod
The pods of Dioclea species tend to not have the stinging trichomes of Mucuna species.

We have not found Dioclea reflexa in as great of numbers as we have the Mucuna.

Our hamburger bean collection.  Looks like it's time for
another jar of spaghetti sauce to be opened!

We've only found six Sea Purses thus far and this butterscotch is especially coveted.

                                                She's a rare beauty!

The huge legume known as Dioclea reflexa (or sea purse) is quiet a climber and grows up to 65 feet high.  Although Sea Purses could be considered happy like hamburgers, they don't have the characteristic dimple or smiley feature.

                                       They're still pretty cute though!

We'll stay in the legume family but move on to another frequent find that is sometimes referred to as the "sea pearl".

Caesalpinia bonduc, also known as knicker bean, is probably the most commonly found bean for all beaners because it grows pretty much everywhere.  It is known as a native to Florida but is also found in Africa, the Caribbean and India.  The other reason it is very commonly found is that it is super hardy and the seeds are reportedly viable for up to 30 years.

2016-11-03 Florida, Stuart - Sprouting Nickernut Seabean (1)
                      Nicole found this hopefully bean on the beach one day.

   A pretty yellow flower blooms on this very aggressive legume.

knicker pod
If you decide to approach this plant you'll want to do it with caution. 

It is said that the Knicker-bean gets its name from the Dutch word knikker which means clay marble.  In the Caribbean they are used to play games like mancala and oware.  They also frequently used for jewelry and the Caesalpinia bonduc plant has an extensive list of medicinal uses most notably as a key ingredient in treating Malaria.

knicker pod 2
            Knicker-beans ready to leave the pod and start traveling.

2016-11-14 Florida, Stuart - Nickerbean Seabean Pod (1)
We typically only find the knicker-beans themselves mixed in with the wrack line but Nicole stumbled on these two pods one day after a storm.

Random Fact:  Hamburger Beans and Knicker Beans are also called Burning Beans because they can inflict a nasty burn when rubbed briskly on a cloth and quickly touched to the skin. (Note: We do not intended to confirm this fact.)

We don't drink so.... Looks like we need another good storm
to bring us some more cool bottles.  We're all filled up!

Before we go, there is one more use for the Knicker Bean plant and probably the best one of all.  This plant is a major food source for the larvae of Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri, the extremely rare Miami Blue butterfly. 

Miami Blue f on Painted Leaf
The Miami blue is a small butterfly that is native to coastal areas of southern Florida. Once very common throughout its range, it has become critically endangered, and may be the rarest insect in the United States.

On that note... off to the beach!