By Mike Ley
Sea beans travel on the ocean currents from the rain forests of the Tropics to the beaches of South Texas. The hard-coated and attractive sea beans grow on large vines and bushes. These plants produce beautiful flowers and seed pods from a few inches to several feet long.
When the pods burst and spread their seeds, some fall directly into the rivers and others are carried off by floodwaters during the rainy season. They float down these rivers to the ocean, where they may drift in the currents for many miles and months. Strong onshore winds cause large mats of sargassum to wash ashore forming a “wrack” line where these sea beans can be found by avid beachcombers. If you find one, cherish it, for it has made a long journey and is a token of good luck.
The numbers shown here are based on records I have kept about my own collection of over 23,000 desirable sea beans, which I collected and documented from beaches on the Gulf Coast of Texas from 2008 through 2019.
Common to Rare
Probability of finding each type:
A. Sea Heart, Entada gigas: 1 in 2
B. Hamburger Bean, Mucuna sloanei (brown) & Mucuna urens (red): 1 in 3
C. Sea Purse, Dioclea reflexa: 1 in 12
D. Brown Nicker, Caesalpinia major: 1 in 17
E. Mary’s Bean or Crucifix Bean, Merremia discoidesperma: 1 in 40
F. Gray Nicker, Caesalpinia bonduc: 1 in 56
G. Lantern Seed, Hernandia sonora: 1 in 151
H. Flat Black Hamburger, Mucuna holtonii: 1 in 167
I. Thick Banded Mucuna or TBM, Mucuna elliptica: 1 in 213
J. Bay Bean, Canavalia rosea: 1 in 220
K. Oxy or Little Marble, Oxyrhynchus trinervius: 1 in 259
L. Calatola, Calatola costaricensis: 1 in 1,048
M. Black Sea Biscuit, Poupartia amazonica: 1 in 2,562
N. Yellow Nicker, Caesalpinia sp. #3 (unidentified): 1 in 5,764
O. Cathie’s Bean, Canavalia nitida: 1 in 11,527
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine November/December 2020 issue.
Read more about Mike Ley's collection of over 25,000 sea beans ›