Thursday, February 2, 2017

Let's Talk About The Woods

Suppose that title is just a little bit misleading to some.  We are not referring to the woods as in an area of land, smaller than a forest, that is covered with growing trees.  No, we are talking about seabeans or drift seeds whose name ends in "wood".

Now that we've cleared that up, let's get to the first in our little list of three that we find in fairly high quantities (as drifters go) on a regular basis.

First up... Calophyllum inophyllum also known as Laurelwood.

Probably the reason that we find so many of these is that it is native to many many places;  Africa, Asia, Southern India, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the northwestern, southwestern and south central Pacific Region and Australia, to name a few.

This low-branching, slow-growing tree reaches heights on average of 50 feet and produces showy, white flowers.

Laurelwood Flower

What is delivered via the ocean currents to our beaches though are the fruit (seed pods) of the Laurelwood.

The fruit (aptly nicknamed the ballnut) are these round, green (pre-ripe), yellow to brownish-red and wrinkled (when ripe) danglers.

Although we have found a few with some wrinkled skin still on them, typically after a long journey at sea we are left with what looks like a wooden ball.

2016-10-17 Florida, Stuart - Laurelwood Seabean
Traditional Pacific Islanders used Calophyllum wood to construct the keel of their canoes.

Nicole has taken a special interest in the innards of the beans that we find more than two or three of.  She carefully dissects the outer shell to reveal the seed inside.

   The kernel of the Laurelwood is really cute and looks a bit like a miniature lemon.

These seeds yield a thick, dark green oil that is used for skin regeneration or hair grease.  The sap of the tree is poisonous and is used to make poison arrows in Samoa while the mature fruit is poisonous enough to use as rat bait.

One very interesting fact is that the fatty acid methyl esters derived from this seeds meet major biodiesel requirements and the oil was used as fuel to generate electricity to provide power for radios during World War II.

So, it seems you can say that we've got ourselves a bowl of skin healing, poison arrowed, biodiesel balls.


On that note, we'll move on to Carapa guianensis or Crabwood as we call it.

The tree grows in the Amazon region, Central America and the Caribbean.
It is a tall tree with dense foliage that grows in the tropical rain forest
along the edge of rivers.

2 (2)
    The flowers of the Crabwood are small and delicate looking.

2 (3)
                                    They grow in clusters.

The wood of this tree resembles mahogany and is used in quality furniture and other items like masts.  The bark is used for tanning.

2 (1)
                            The fruit is fairly large.

What we find washing up on our beaches are the seeds from inside this fruit.

2 (4)
There are three in this fruit each with the unique three flat sides one curved shape.

An oil with medicinal and insect repellant properties is derived from these seeds. The oil is used to treat hepatitis, tetanus and ringworm.  It can also be used as a lamp oil and to protect furniture from termites and other wood-chewing insects.  Leaves are also used for things like itchy skin.  The fruit rind is used for intestinal worms.

Crabwood (1)
The first three of our specimens.  Nicole thought she would stop here but there is something about these uniquely shaped nuts...

  ...and so we have kept all 20 that we have found.

The front two in the above photo have been cut open in an attempt to see the innards.  However, their long journey at sea ate away at the two we have opened and all that was left was a dust or a paste.

Crabwood (2)
Perhaps Nicole will dare to open another but these are favorites so it may not happen.

We'll move on to Pterocarpus officinalis (otherwise known as Bloodwood).

The Bloodwood is a dominant tree of freshwater coastal wetlands in the Caribbean and the Guiana regions.  It is known as a kind of teak native to southern Africa. 

This wonderfully artistic root system is a unique
feature of the Bloodwood tree.

The bark, when wounded, yields drops of red juice which
soon harden into crimson tears.

The resin of this tree is astringent and haemostatic and has been used in general wound healing, lowering fevers, the treatment of diarrhea, mouth sores and thrush.  An infusion of the outer bark is also used to treat dysentery.

dragonsblood flower
                                      It's flowers are small and yellow.

                                        It's seeds are uniquely shaped.

By the time we find the seeds drifting onto our shores they have aged and turned brown.


    One common characteristic of all of them is the veins that run through them.


The Bloodwoods are like the Crabwoods in that once they reach our shores their internal seed is rather dried up and non-viable.  So, we'll spare you the picture of the dust that we found inside.

Instead we'll share with you a shot of the internals of the Nickerbean (aka Sea Pearl).  If you remember, we shared their details in a past post.

2016-12-03 Florida, Stuart - Nickerbean Seabean (2)
                    These are Nickerbeans.

They have a very hard shell so they survive their long journey.  Nicole had to use a hacksaw to cut one open.


We've been somewhat slack on getting more posts up since settling into our condo here in sunny Florida and taking on part-time jobs. 

As of this posting though we are entering our fifth month of not living in Annie.  We are also entering our fifth month of staying one place.  Four months is the longest we have stayed in any one place for the last five years.  Needless to say, our nomadic toes are tapping and we both are feeling the itch. 

However, for the time being, we shall stay put.  We've got a really great deal with our living situation and a great landlord (who just bought herself another condo and has told us to stay as long as we want).  The location is prime as Florida goes with only a quick three mile jaunt to the ocean and Nicole's folks are just a short drive away, as well.

Soon the water temperature will warm up and we will clean off our sandy feet by exploring the many shipwrecks and reefs in the area.

Until next time...