Is it a mini handbag? A tiny saddle? A giant hamburger for Lego people? The eye of a Colombian vulture? May I present the seeds with a thousand names...
However, there is very similar genus of legumes called Mucuna, and after a bit of rummaging around I've come to the conclusion that this is Mucuna mutisiana (we'll of course check this with an expert at identification at STRI).
Not to be outdone by Dioclea, Mucana has a lot of quirk going for it too. It's also a seabean, and it's name apparently comes directly from indigenous languages. Some members of the genus are apparently popular amongst the spectacular Morpho butterflies you often see fluttering along trails. The diversity of random uses to which Mucuna has been put are almost ridiculous, including (if we trust Wikipedia here) possibly-hallucinogenic shamanic snuff, herbal remedies for Parkinson's, aphrodisiacs in India, a useful nitrogen-fixer for Guatamalan farmers, a 'cognition-enhancing' drug, and prank powder that makes you itch loads. Which is interesting, because if you'll excuse me, I now need to go and remove a very large number of tiny Mucuna spines from my hands.
Stop press! An hour after writing that, I've just looked inside the pod of another Mucuna, and there was a small, dead scorpion inside... o_O The plot thickens...
Hi! I'm Patrick - an early-career postdoc in behavioural ecology. I completed my PhD in 2019, focused on Polistes paper wasps in South and Central America. I'm currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow and Simons Society Junior Fellow in the Rubenstein Lab at Columbia University (New York) and the Radford Lab at the University of Bristol (UK), looking at the social behaviour and evolution of Africa's incredible wasps! I'm always keen to get involved in outreach to spread the word about these amazing animals.
Patrick Kennedy, University of Bristol
A blog about research, fieldwork, and trying not to get stung by big tropical wasps too often