Hymenaea courbaril  L. – West Indian locust  – Fabaceae

Merremia discoidesperma  (Donn.Sm.) O’Donnell- Mary’s bean  - Convolvulaceae

The West Indian locust, Hymenaea courbaril, a small tree that inhabits low dry forests, has spread throughout the American tropics thanks to its drifting fruits.  It was introduced to the Old World tropics by man.  Thick woody pods contain one-inch (2 cm) flattened seeds nestled in an unpleasant-smelling though edible pulp.  In Central America  it is known as the "stinking toe tree" or by its Spanish name guapinol.

Resinous sap from the tree produces a hard resin, called copal, used in varnishes.  Resin from old stumps is used for tinder and church incense and fashioned into faux amber jewelry.

Mary’s bean, Merremia discoidesperma, also has a common name of “crucifixion seed” which derives from the distinctive cross embedded on one side.  Some seeds of this woody vine of the mixed forest flora of Central American drift to the shores of northern Europe.  There at one time they became treasured objects for the people who found them.  Because they had survived the ocean voyage, their inherent protective powers, they believed, would extend to their present owners.

In the Hebrides a woman in labor was assured an easy delivery if she clenched a seed in her hand during labor.  Daughters inherited seeds from their mothers.

 

 

 

 

BACK
TOP
FWD