Using Sea-Beans to teach:
Botany, Tropical Ecology, Oceanography, Cultural Studies, Island Biogeography


BOTANY: What is a "Sea-Bean"? One can work with the seeds, determine the plant that produced them, and discover the diversity of sea-beans by investigating their taxonomy and classification. Grow the seeds to examine their growth rates, and leaf and flower structure. What's the difference between a "drift seed" and a "drift fruit"? What adaptatations allow them to float? See also: Books on Sea-Beans.

MUCUNA RESEARCH: A detailed listing of names of species of Mucuna, along with links to their photos and taxonomic literature.

TROPICAL ECOLOGY: Most of the sea-beans that we find washed ashore have a tropical origin, often a rainforest! These plants provide critical components to tropical jungles.

OCEANOGRAPHY: These drift seeds mature and fall to the jungle floor and wait for a tropical rain deluge to float them through the jungle to streams, rivers, and to the ocean. In the ocean, they are subject to the prevailing surface currents and winds. Knowing what plant a seed is from, one can determine possible origins of the seeds and speculate on their oceanic pathways and time spent in the ocean!

CULTURAL STUDIES: At the point of origin of the seeds, people in many communities (and jungle tribes!) will use sea-beans... before they become sea-beans... to create jewelry for sale or trade, as well as use them as adornment to clothing. Some of these seeds are believed to have special spiritual meaning and have important uses in ceremonies.

ISLAND BIOGEOGRAPHY: Plants are often the first colonizers of new islands, because they use oceanic currents to disperse their seeds. Even today, after mature islands are well vegetated, new seeds still wash ashore and become established thereby giving a new point of origin for future seed dispersal! What seeds get where? How far do they travel? Can they germinate? How has this process contributed to establishing the present range/distribution of the plants?


Downloads and Links

LAB EXERCISE: Entada gigas Steals Your Heart!
Carol Adamson has created and provided us with a "lab" using sea-beans, and permission to use it for teaching purposes.

The lab is available for download in Microsoft Word format as well as PDF format.

WAYNE'S WORD (many educational web pages on sea-beans)
Drift Seeds And Drift Fruits - by Wayne Armstrong

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