Visiting Borneo in 2015, the wealth of drift seeds washed up on the beach sparked a new interest.
On the Arabian coastline, there are no such treasures. There are few trees on the coastlines here, only mangroves, so, on coming across beans and husks of all shapes and sizes as I walking along the shoreline looking for shells, I was fascinated.
What were they, what tree did they come from and so on… Our hotel staff could identify some, but one in particular, is to me, a natural object of beauty, but no-one could identify it’s source in a language I could understand.
So along with a few more, it came home with me. Exhaustive searches on Google yielded nothing so, I posted it on a Facebook seashell collector’s group hoping someone would have an idea, as the members appear to do what I do, comb shorelines…. I am not the only one who does this !
My inspiration was fruitful, an answer came overnight, pulling in help from a group of Sea-Bean collectors. The author of the Sea-Beans of Brunei Darussalam contacted me to let me know it is probably the fruit endocarp of the Belian or Ironwood tree, Lauraceae family.
This is the fruit of one of the largest trees in the rain forest. It grows in the riverine forest and its “green avocado shape” fruits drift away via the river to the beach. Once the green skin of the fruit has been peeled off, the very hard woody endocarp can be found on the beach (mainly in Sarawak).
Avocado shape 12.5 cm long, 7 cm wide, round in cross section, very light, seems to be hollow and empty, a hard, woody, veiny system on the outer layer, some 8 parallel ribs can be seen at the top and between the veins. A very beautiful and amazing fruit.
I am always amazed at the power of the Internet, information is available at the click of a mouse button, complete strangers around the world helping me to find the source of this beautiful sea bean…. sadly there is a dark side to the net, but the other side of obtaining information and the generous nature of people willing to help is such a delight. In the days of snail mail, identification must have taken many months to obtain….I have much admiration for those early explorers, beating paths down jungle trails, preserving samples, drawing them…
My Ironwood bean, treasured….
For anyone who may be wondering, the white in between the gnarls is wax. An attempt to stop it drying out and cracking !