Today John and George played hooky in the coastal dune-hammock strand on Hutchinson Island at Beachwalk-Pasley. This restored strip is a living museum of maritime species. The treat is seeing all together in glorious flower at once: Bay-Cedar, Bloodberry, Buttonwood, Corky Stem Passion Vine, Cowpea, Crownbeard, Fiddlewood, Native Lantana, Marlberry, Nickerbean, Purple Morning Glory, Railroad Vine, Sea-Rocket, and more. The star fruit-laden species were Sea-Grapes and Fiddlewoods. The most magnificent display was the Baybean, trailing on the ground, festooned over upright plants, and dangling from overhead limbs like a party decoration. Flowers, fruits, seeds—the whole works.
Baybean beans are easy to spot with their blotchy surface pattern. To me they look like engorged ticks on a dog’s neck.
The dangling pods are the size of a flattened sausage, and made of tough stuff. The big pea-type flowers are a rich rose color. You can find on-line reports of the blossoms drugging their pollinators, but I’m skeptical of that. (Would be fun to investigate though.) Something bay-beany with a bigger blog presence is smoking the big tough fibrous Canavalia pods or leaves for a “Woodstock” experience. Sometimes they are in the false marijuama sold as “bath salts.” The blog world has lots of of chatter on this topic, yet they all seem to miss one minor point: YOU’D HAVE TO BE CRAZY!?!
Here is why I would never ever ingest Canavalia in any format: I enjoy life. Canavalia is the namesake of one of the world’s most fascinating poisons, canavanine. Canavanine occurs in Canavalia, although I do not know about C. rosea specifically. It is present in other pants too, such as alfalfa.
Here is how canavanine works. It is wickedly insidious, and pardon the Biochemistry 101. Living things are all about proteins. Proteins have precise structures and precise functions. Proteins are chains of amino acids, just like sentences are chains of words. Alter an amino acid, and you have the effects of a mutation, not good. An amino acid impotant in protein building is arginine. You can buy it in the health food store. Now here is the important point—Canavanine resembles arginine. Canavanine sabotages proteins by becoming built into them disguised as arginine. This is the equivalent of saboteurs secretly replacing ball bearings with rubber balls in the airplane factory. Kaboom! Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.
[Note: The chemical structures come from the Universite Pierre & Marie Curie, Paris]