What's a Sea-Bean?

Garland of Sea-Beans

Sea-beans (also known as drift seeds) are seeds and fruits that are carried to the ocean, often by freshwater streams and rivers, then drift with the ocean currents and (hopefully!) wash ashore.

These sea-beans don't initially come from the sea and while some are indeed beans, many are not technically beans at all! Some "sea-beans" are technically fruits that contain seeds. Nonetheless, if they drift to and into the oceans and wash ashore, we collectively refer to them as "sea-beans".

These sea-beans come from trees and vines that grow along tropical shores and rain forests all over the world. The seeds or fruits fall from their parent plant into waterways, such as the Amazon River, then drift through inlets to reach the ocean. They travel with ocean currents until they wash up on a beach somewhere, perhaps thousands of miles from their origin. Sea-beans are quite hard and buoyant, which helps them survive their long-distance voyage.

Why do sea-beans float?

Sea-beans often float because they have an internal air pocket within the seed. This air pocket is often trapped by the hard outer covering of the hard beans called "shinies" (which can you can polish to a nice shine). Other seeds are less dense with a soft, punky outer covering (the "corkies") and may themselves be lighter than water (fresh water and salt water) but may also have tiny air pockets within. The late John Dennis is known for his foresight in testing the floatation duration for several seeds, with some tests now extending for 32 years! ...Ed Perry now continues those experiments.

When and where can I find sea-beans?

Sea-beans drift onto beaches around the world, particularly after higher-than-normal tides during hurricane season. The number of beans you can find in a day will vary with time of year, Gulf Stream variations, offshore hurricane activity, wind and temperature changes, and tropical plant abundance for a particular year.

In Florida, September and October are typically the most bountiful times to find sea-beans. Tides leave behind drift seeds along with seaweed, driftwood, tar, trash, and toys. This line of debris on the beach is called the wrack. With each successive tide, the wrack is pushed farther toward the dune line. However, sometimes a high tide will sweep over the wrack and pull it back out to sea, carrying the seaweed and drift seeds to another beach. Ocean currents, connected to each other in a huge global transit system, can carry sea-beans from current to current- so, a seed from Jamaica could travel to Florida, then to New Jersey, and then across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom.

Can I eat sea-beans?

Sea-beans are studied for medicinal uses, and a few are available commercially as nutritional supplements. Edible drift seeds (when fresh from the plant!) are the coconut, the Tropical Almond and the Hog Plum.


What the heck is a sea bean? - an entry in "Danielle's Dives" blog.
Note, on the above linked page, the reference to Waynesworld.com is incorrect and should be: www.WaynesWord.com
Also see Wayne Armstrong's page: "Drift Seeds And Drift Fruits, Seeds That Ride The Ocean Currents"

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