Sunday, May 15, 2011

Twisted Nickers - The Knicker Bean

“Watch this magic trick” a friend said as he took a marble-sized nickerbean and rubbed it on a rough surface. I watched as he placed it on my skin. The burning sensation caused by that brief amount of friction, reminded me of a searing hot branding iron scorched on a cattle’s hide. I jerked my arm away. ‘We used to do that to each other when we were kids” he said with glee.

Never mind that the bark of the tree has been used to treat malaria and venereal diseases or that new leaves can alleviate tooth pain, this plant can be used to inflict mild harm on others! “Don’t do that again” I groused with fiery irritation.

The Nickerbean (Caesalpinia bonducella), aka Gray Nicker or Nicker Nut Tree is a thorny, shrub that grows along the sandy coastline of South Florida. It is native to Florida but can be found along coastal habitats around the world.

The spiny-limb and leaved shrub can grow to nearly five feet before sagging branches droop towards well-drained sandy soils. They can take root and grow from there. It’s a bushwhacker’s nightmare to clamber through a twisted, tangled jumble of vegetation.

Canary-yellow blooms grow on tall stalks year round and give way to a well-armored, clam-shaped seed pods. As they mature, the pods open and two gray seeds are released.

Seeds are washed from shore by tides and floods before the sea returns them to potentially suitable, sun-drenched, sandy soils. As the seeds float about, scarification, or “nicking” occurs. The seed casing is chipped away by sand, insects and animals. Once water enters the seed it germinates and can begin to grow.

Beans don’t always get nicked and I’ll pick up whole ones when I find them. Who can resist magic beans? If someone performs a “magic nickerbean trick” for you someday don’t get your nickers in a twist. 

1 comment:

  1. found these in Vero Beach Florida