Found on the beach

Yesterday morning, while walking Kika on the Playa Negra beach, I found this thing, which looked like a seed to me.

The past months, I have started collecting seeds for a plot that we hope to find in the near future and that might need some reforestation, or garden plants, fruit trees and bushes and so on. So, I pick it up and, at home tried to find out what it is.

I will spare you most of the details, but not all. It was not an easy search. Google and Bing’s image searches did not really help. They mostly presented stones. Then I just tried a search for the description of ‘big flat brown tropical seed‘, and there it was, hidden between some other seeds in a picture on the second row depicting so-called ‘drift seeds’.

The image came from a web page of ‘Wayne’s Word. An on-line textbook of natural history‘, a website that has not been updated, at least not visually, because it still looks like it came from the 1990s. It feels ancient, and it is indeed from the 1990s, but it contains a tonne of useful information. In December 1998, Wayne Armstrong dedicated a whole page to the tree that bears this fruit: the Prioria copaifera, or Cativo.

Guess what? Wayne found similar seeds in Costa Rica, at the ‘sandy beaches’ of Cahuita, which is like 5 km from where I found this one. ‘Moet het niet nog gekker worden‘, as the Dutch saying goes. But it does get weirder still: the seed was a mystery to Wayne too, which he solved with some help. And thanks to his and his peers’ hard work, I could now find it easily. Isn’t it great, the internet? And is it not awesome that people like Wayne, wrote all this stuff down?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what about this tree? Well, as Wayne explains ‘the trees are very abundant on the Atlantic (Caribbean) coast of Costa Rica along tidal estuaries and ascending to about 1,000 feet, forming nearly pure stands in some places’. However, that was back in 1998. The current Wikipedia page claims that it occurs along the Caribbean coast from Nicaragua to Colombia. So perhaps the tree has spread? Interestingly, the wiki page adds that in Costa Rica the tree is protected as a threatened species.

Wait, what!? Threatened species? How threatened? Well, the biodiversity database GBIF gives an impression. Below left, shows the map with all locations in the world as captured by GBIF. In the middle, a detailed view of Costa Rica. And for comparison, the picture on the right shows the occurrence of oak trees ( Quercus ) in the world.

More data and numbers can be found here. So, no, to me it does not look like there is an abundance of Cativo, and definitely not in Costa Rica.

But what does that mean for the seed that I found? Should I make sure that it grows into a sapling and a tree? Or should I not have picked it up in the first place and put it back where I found it? I may fail to grow a tree out of it. On the other hand, at the beach it won’t germinate either because there is no estuary nearby ( in case you do not know the word, like me a minute before I wrote this : it is a place where a river ends up in the sea, i.e. where sweet water mixes with salt water ). Or is it supposed to be picked up again by the sea and dropped of elsewhere? But what if it rots away before it gets anywhere? I don’t know yet, but likely, I will try to grow it, once Cristina and I found a place. Until then it goes into the seed collection.


2 thoughts on “Found on the beach

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