Monday, March 18, 2013

Spilling the beans

While I was in Florida, I was asked to solve a new mystery involving a very strange object that had appeared on the fence.

A mysterious and very large (6" x 2.5") seed pod that appeared on the fence.
Although it seemed to be a seed pod, it did not resemble any seed pod we had ever seen before.  However, back in December and January, we had seen clusters of what looked like bean (Fabaceae) flowers on some of the vines.

Yellow bean (Fabaceae) flowers that were frequently visited by ants.
Since the seed pod did not appear to be ripe, I turned to the internet to find out what kind of seeds were developing inside.  Surprisingly, the answer was something quite familiar -- for years, we had been finding the seeds washed up on the beach.

A brown hamburger bean (Mucuna sloanei) partly buried in the sand.
We brought many of these seeds home and most of them ended up in jars.  A few others were left by the gate – and one or more of these must have eventually sprouted and grown into the vines that now cover the fence.  After identifying the vine, I checked the outside of the fence for more seed pods.  Though there were none on the vine, I did find an older one that had fallen to the ground.

An earlier crop of brown hamburger beans (Mucuna sloanei).

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