Wednesday, January 20, 2021

What the Heck is Sea Beaning and Why and How Do I Do it?

Rumination from the Rock and Beyond

Photos by Jory Westberry | The Jupiter Beach during the return of ETA with crashing waves and excess blowing foam in the wind.


It’s better to be above the tide line, not in the waves, but the draw to them in this case was hard to resist.

When my science-oriented son told me he was going to go beaning, I thought I was hearing things. Dreaming? Streaming? At the time, questioning him about what he said wasn’t opportune. You may know what I mean if you have an “adult child,” sometimes silence is your better option along with nodding and smiling. “Have fun!” I said as he drove away. 

Sometime later, I asked him how his weekend was. “Fantastic, Mom, you should see the beans I found!” Beans? Beans he found? Am I having hearing difficulties? Who would be ecstatic about beans, except Jack from the Beanstalk story? 

He hauled a bulging plastic bagrecycled of courseout of his truck and dumped them on the outside picnic table. Imagine my shock when I saw a variety of different sized seeds along with a very self-satisfied smile on his face. “Cool, eh?” he asked. If he had touched me with a feather, I would have tipped right over. 

After satisfying my curiosity with some research, this is what I found out. Better sit down! There are clubs and individuals all over the world, yes, the world, that collect seabeans! Some are fairly common and some are rare. Here’s why. 

Seabeans are actually the seeds from many different varieties of trees that in some way end up on the currents of the world and at some point wash up on beaches far and wide. “Sea Beaners,” as they call themselves, check the tides, embrace storms because of the uptick in the chances of bean bounty that might wash up on any coast and will plan ahead to hit the shores before the other collectors. Let’s say you live on the Gulf Coast of Florida and you know of a storm coming with wind from the East. There’s a good possibility that you’ll make the drive to the East Coast at a time that will maximize your chances of finding beans, some of which may have ridden the waves from Spain, Japan, Cuba, Italy, or name any other coastal countries, and some of those tidal rides could last for years! Strategy is important, and so is getting to be the first “beaners” on the beach so you don’t miss anything. 

What’s even more interesting is the names of these seabeans, and I don’t know who named them, but the names are descriptive of their appearance or the actual name of the trees where they originate. For example, the “hamburger,” which collectors try to find in different colors, red and brown, resembles a side view of a hamburger, the “seapurse,” the “seaheart,” the “nickerbean” and many more. The nickerbean plant is one prevalent in the Florida woods and the bean is fairly easy to find on our Gulf beaches and recognized by itshiny, smooth, light grey color. The pods on the trees are green, and very, very prickly and are attached to a long stringy vine that spreads like wildfire. It would be more prudent to pick up the nickerbeans on the beach than trying to open one of those green pincushions. 

Ironically, we recently went camping last weekend with our friends, the Morgans from Goodland, that recently moved to Vero Beach. On a whim, I asked them if they knew what seabeans are since they’re living on the East Coast now. Teresa almost fell over and looked at me incredulously. “You know about seabeansYes, it’s so much fun to look for them!” Steve said they are his mission to find now as they walk the beach. Wonder of wonders, they have become seabean collectors. Who knew? They’ve started identifying them after enjoying the hunt. 

Checking the tide line for those precious seabeans.

“The only negative side effect about searching for seabeans and beachcombing is discovering the plethora of washed-up plastics amongst the flotsam and jetsam,” according to Steve. He carries recycled grocery bags to pick up the “junk” and said, “The plastics are a never-ending story day after day, month after month, which is depressing.” He thoughtfully deposits the plastics in the recycling bin. 

Finding the seabeans could also include seed beans and fruit beans, but I’m not sure at this point in my research which is which. Teresa is intent on learning more about the seabeans and where they come from. There have been Seabean Symposiums in both Galveston, TX, in 2018 and Florida in 2019. I doubt they’ll be one this year, or much else for that matter. 

I have to admit, it has piqued my interest to learn more about the seabean phenomenon and about all kinds of science topics. There are so many interesting things to learn about, science or not, and too little time. I’ve said this before, let’s get on with the journey together!


My son, Ryan, CCPS Secondary Science Coordinator, created this seabean display for me; it needs to be refurbished after the water from Irma rained in from holes in the roof.


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