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It is a vine-like shrub and scrambles over other vegetation. Leaves are shiny, opposite and compound, with 4-5 pairs of bipinnate leaflets, each 2 - 2.5 inches in length. Fruits grow in spiny, flattened pods, ~4 inches in length. Gray seeds inside ~2 cm (0.79 in) known as nickernuts.
It has a pantropical distribution (tropical regions in Africa, Asia and America). Nicker beans are common in coastal habitats including beaches, scrub, hammocks and drier mangrove areas. They can also be found in disturbed upland habitats where they may successfully compete with grasses and herbs. Nicker beans are tolerant of salt spray, salty soils, and occasional flooding with sea water.
Some gray nicker-beans that I came across on a village roadside in Khajra, MP, India. Nickernuts are also used as marbles by native islanders of the Caribbean and have been exported to Europe for buttons.