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Gray Nicker

Caesalpinia bonduc


A thorny shrub like vine that will use other vegetation for support. It can form an impenetrable thicket. Gray nicker has a small yellow flower that blooms summer through fall. It has large prickly seed pods, spiny stems and bipinnate leaves. Each pod produces two gray seeds that are called nickernuts or sea pearls. Immature seeds are green but with maturity, they shrink, harden and turn gray.


Gray nicker is a native vine of Florida's central and southern coastal dunes.


A handful of nickernut shaken together has almost a musical sound. Some people call them sea pearls because they have a hard marble like shell. Nickernuts are used in jewellery and rosaries and to play mancala type games. It can also be ground up to make a medicinal tea. The seeds contain bonducin sometimes referred to as "poor man's quinine." Bonducin has been used as a substitute for quinine in the treatment of intermittent malarial fever.

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1 Comment

p.young713 10 years ago

That is an interesting plant. It does not grow on the West coast of Florida? you said it is like quinine? Good spotting.

Karen Hileman
Spotted by
Karen Hileman

Orchid, Florida, USA

Spotted on Aug 26, 2012
Submitted on Aug 26, 2012

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