How to Collect Sea-Beans
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How to Collect Sea-Beans



See also: How to Care for Sea-Beans ...protect your collection!

Go get 'em!

One way to collect sea-beans (the best way!) is to go get them yourself. Go to the beach, walk the beach, find some treasures! To accomplish all this, successfully, the stars don't have to line up but there are several things to consider: which beach, currents, what time (of the day, month, or year), the weather, technique, and other beaners.

1. Which beach? For those lucky enough to live close to an oceanic shoreline, several options may be available. Choose a beach that is close by, has adequate parking and other facilities, and is safe. For those that don't live close to a beach, travel is on the agenda. This opens the door to other options, but adds expense... a little or a lot! If traveling, consider which beach may have more sea-beans than another. Talk to others about where to go; the SEABEAN-L listserve is a good place to post questions, particularly if your travels will be distant.

If getting to that special beach means travel to another country, be advised that the Customs agents of the origin or destination country may have a problem with your sea-beans. If you mail your seeds home, you might consider marking the box with "previously frozen" to indicate that the seeds are non-viable and won't impact local flora at their destination. Don't put all your beans in one "basket"... whether it's packages mailed home, or if it's your luggage.


Some countries (your orgin or destination) may require a "Phytosanitary Certificate" (see: USDA Dept. of Agriculture). This document certifies that the seeds are "sanitary". The concern is the transport and introduction of organisms associated with the seeds. Otaining a certificate would be a major effort on your part, and customs inspectors in various countries may not even know what this is! Be aware of this info, but most people don't even consider or attempt this level of compliance, as it is mostly used to move agricultural products.


2. Currents: Consider the local currents. These currents carry and deliver the sea-beans to the beach. Is this current "fed" sea-beans by a tropical or subtropical source? Are the currents likely to hold sea-beans? If so, are the currents close enough to the shoreline to deposit the sea-beans on the beach?

3. Timing: The time of year can affect how successful you are at collecting sea-beans. There is a "Sea-Bean Season"! Currents often meander closer to the shore; when this happens, the sea-beans may be more likely to become stranded on the beach. The best time of the month for sea-beans may be influenced by the monthly cycle of the tides, which may bring more water higher onto the beach... and may carry more sea-beans. Now-a-days, with sea-beaning becoming more popular, the time of day to go beaning may be important. Sea-beans may be deposited in the middle of the night... the early beaner gets the beans!

4. Weather: The weather, particularly winds, can play a very important role in delivering sea-beans to the beach. Because they float, the sea-beans are affected by the wind, as is the surface water that they are floating in! Watch for an onshore breeze... the longer it persists, the better. The farther offshore the bean-carrying currents are, the longer it takes for the winds to blow the sea-beans ashore. Listen for news of Portuguese Man-o-War washing ashore... what blows them ashore will also blow sea-beans ashore!


Portuguese Man-o-War, Physalia physalis

The weather systems in the tropics are also very important to watch. Many sea-beans originate in tropical jungles and need torrential rains to flood the jungles and carry the beans to streams, to rivers, and to the sea. It's the annual cycle of these tropical storms that contribute to the "seasonality" of sea-bean abundance on our beach shores. Watch the tropical systems, and figure out how long it takes for the deluge of seeds to make it to your beach... then, hope for an onshore wind and: be there!


5. Other beaners: friend or foe? Well, that person just up the beach from you may have found that coveted Mary's Bean that you surely would have found. Oh well. Maybe they found two and will give you one! Maybe you can trade that Dioclea you found! Nonetheless, beaning is becoming more popular and the beans (seemingly) not more abundant. That said, all beaners miss sea-beans right under their nose. Talk to the other beaners on the beach... you might learn something or make a new friend!

6. Technique: How and where you search is important. If you're searching for sea-beans at the low-tide line, among all the seashells, then get out-a-there! Head up the beach face above the high tide line and (more importantly) the wrack line!!! Sea-beans float, and you'll find them among the other stuff that floats: the seaweed. This "wrackline" may consist of different types of plant material. You're looking for the oceanic algae called Sargassum. If the currents and winds have blown this ashore (it floats too), then there may be sea-beans among it.


The wrack line...   after a storm.

 
Forms of Sargassum spp.
These clumps are freshly washed ashore. After a couple days on the beach, they'll be dry and a dark brown color.

Local storms may create great waves that hit the nearshore ocean bottom and dislodge benthic (bottom growing) algae or seagrass which then washes ashore. When you see that the wrackline is composed of this, remember its source... it's not from where sea-beans come from, and it won't provide you with a bonanza of sea-beans.

Different people search in different ways... find what's best for you or implement a variety of techniques. Some prefer the aid of sun and shadows, walking into or away from the sun's rays. Others walk fast to find the most obvious beans, while others walk slowly to not miss a thing. Some will flip over the Sargassum in the wrack line to see what's hidden underneath; others focus on the periphery of the clumps of algae. Some beaners bring a pronged stick to turn over the wrack, other opportunistic beaners will find a stick for that purpose; some just kick it over (if that's you, be careful). Sunglasses or not? Hmmmm... Sometimes they help; sometimes they hinder.



Finding Sea Beans on the Beach
Courtesy of YouTube's "seabeanie" --- August 06, 2009

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You can purchase or trade sea-beans too!

Another way to "collect" sea-beans is to purchase or trade for them, much the same way as many people "collect" stamps. If you don't live next to the beach, or can't get there, purchasing or trading may be an option for you. Even if you can get to "a" beach, perhaps you can't get to that special beach half way around the world that you'd just love to have some drift seeds from. Again, sending seeds to other countries may be problematic. Good Luck!

Links
Be sure to check out chapter 8, "Making a Collection" in Perry & Dennis: "Sea-Beans from the Tropics"
...when, where, how, cleaning and storing is discussed in greater detail.


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