Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Salt Life

Or technically, Brackish Life. Regardless, plants that thrive in saltwater are amazing, no?

Take this guy right here:

He's a Red Mangrove, easily identified by the exposed roots and foot long, pencil shaped seed pods. Which aren't seed pods, but actually little mini trees ready to float around in the saltwater and take root. I know what you're thinking, can you eat said seed pod? No, but apparently you can make tea and tobacco out of the leaves and a whistle out of the dried up pods. I couldn't find a video of someone making the whistle, so that project is totally going on my list.

And how about this tempting bunch of berries:

At first glance, they looked like bright red berries coming off of a dead leaf. But look more closely, and you realize that they are berries that have popped out of a seed pod. These guys are Abrus precatorius, aka the Rosary Pea. This website reports: the seeds of this plant are so uniform in size and weight that they are used as standards in weight measurement. The red color with a dash of black, plus the consistent size, means that they are used for making jewelry. But there's a catch. The Rosary Pea contains abrin, which is a deadly toxin like ricin, only more so. As explained here:

Symptoms are identical to those of ricin, except abrin is more toxic by almost two orders of magnitude; the fatal dose of abrin is approximately 75 times smaller than the fatal dose of ricin.

One seed can easily kill a human. Gulp. Who knew that I was staring at one of the most toxic plants on the planet. Amazing. It's worth noting that the CDC holds out hope that Abrin could be used to kill cancer cells. So who knows, maybe this deadly plant can also be incredibly helpful.

Moving on, I kept seeing what appeared to be little birds nests all over the place. And then I looked closer and realized I was seeing something else altogether:

That's Tillandsia recurvata, aka Ball Moss. It's closely related to Spanish Moss (or as I've often incorrectly called it: Old Man's Beard). And like Spanish Moss, Ball Moss isn't really moss. You can't eat it, nor can you weaponize it into a terror inducing poison. Like Spanish Moss, it can be used as decoration or packing material, assuming you kill the insects that usually live within it.

And here's a few other photos I snapped while wandering this marshy trail. What an amazing treat, getting a peek at this unique habitat.

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