Saturday, September 19, 2009

So what's the big deal about sea-beans?

Last week, one of our posts featured a video about a beach walk to look for sea-beans. Pure Florida blogger Florida Cracker (aka FC) left the following comment: I never realized people were so gaga over sea beans. I just took them for granted as another cool beach oddity growing up in St. Augustine. I did plant one once, and an enormous vine grew out of it and all over my sunny bedroom. A little history about FC - he's a native Floridian, former park ranger, current school teacher, and a terrific blogger. He and his family live on the Nature Coast of Florida (west coast).

I know when I got interested in sea-beans, but FC's question made me wonder when sea-beans started to become more of a field of study and interesting to more people. So I asked Ed Perry, native Floridian, park ranger, and co-author with John Dennis of "Sea-Beans From the Tropics: A Collector's Guide to Sea-Beans and Other Tropical Drift on Atlantic Shores." The following is Ed's reply: The first interest in the science of sea-beans was probably in the 60s/70s, mainly in south Florida, and primarily because of Bob Mossman and John Dennis and the publishing of the subject's first comprehensive reference book, "World Guide to Tropical Drift Seeds and Fruits" that John co-authored with Dr. Bob Gunn. The renewed interest started in the mid-90s, here in Brevard, and was due to Cathie Katz and her books/newsletter and the sea-bean symposiums.

Ed's interest in sea-beans began at an early age when his grandmother operated the Sea Bean Boutique gift shop on the Canaveral Pier (now Cocoa Beach Pier). Ed tells us: It had nothing to do with selling sea-beans, but because of the name, people would always want to know what a sea-bean was/looked like. Thus, my grandmother would send me out on the beach when I wasn’t fishing to look for sea-beans. She would keep them in her cash drawer to show to interested visitors. She often gave them away, thus entailing more work for me when I visited her again (she gave me a quarter for each one I brought back to her). After graduating college, I came back to Brevard and started reading books by Cathie Katz. I thought, “here’s a lady as crazy as I am, picking these curious seeds off the beach!” I met Cathie and we were kindred spirits. I became involved with a loose-knit group known as “The Drifters” that studied, collected, and wrote about driftseeds on a worldwide level. (This photo by Blair Witherington shows Ed at last year's symposium.)

Since Cathie's death in 2001, Ed has spearheaded the annual symposiums and publishes the quarterly Drifting Seed newsletter that connects 500 readers in 20 countries. Ed is a life-long resident of Brevard County and has been a park ranger at Sebastian Inlet State Park for over 20 years.

Regarding the plant that FC grew in his bedroom, Ed tells us that the seeds are almost always viable. Once their shells are cracked, they're ready to grow some pretty interesting plants.

Reference Links:
Sea Bean Web Site (Paul Mikkelsen is the webmaster of this dandy site)
Drifting Seed (newsletter)
Pure Florida


The Florida Blogger said...

Ya know I was kinda thinking the same thing as FC. Thanks for the history lesson!

Florida Beach Basics said...

so Alan, not sure where you are in Africa, but with luck you will be close enough to a beach to go beaning. most of the beans we get here in Brevard County come from Central and South America via the Gulf Stream, but you could find some dandies over there.