Mucuna  spp. True sea beans  - Fabaceae

The pod-bearing vines of Mucuna produce seeds that are over one inch in diameter (2.5 cm) and have a distinctive hilum (a black line that is a scar on the seed coat where the seed was attached to the fruit).  The black line covers three-fourths of the seed's circumference and gives the seed the look of a hamburger with a meat patty sandwiched between the two halves of a bun.  The seeds are also known as horse eye-beans and true sea-beans.

The vine is a legume and has beans which are buoyant.  Tropical New World species sometimes drift to the shores of northern Europe via the Gulf Stream.  The hairs on the seeds of some species can cause intense irritation if they penetrate the skin.  In Africa the stinging hairs are mixed with honey and given to children to expel worms.10 They are sometimes used as an ingredient in arrow poisons.

Seeds are used in games, as beads, and have been made into snuff boxes.  Mischievous boys who rub the seeds on cloth until the surface becomes hot elicit screams from little girls when their skin is touched with the "burning bean."

In the West Indies the sea bean is carried as an amulet to protect the owner from sickness.  In Africa talismanic properties include wearing it to prevent having a child who will suffer from elephantiasis.11  Today women of Central America carry it in their purses during the day or put it under their pillow at night to "bring money."

 

 

 

 

BACK
TOP
FWD