soapberry - ROM2004_1035_5

ROM
ROM2004_1035_5

soapberry

Geography: Africa
Date: Acquired by the Museum in 1989 AD
Taxonomy
    • Attributes
    • Objects
    • Taxonomy
    • KingdomPlantae
    • PhylumMagnoliophyta
    • ClassMagnoliopsida
    • OrderSapindales
    • FamilySapindaceae
    • GenusSapindus
    • SpecificEpithetsaponaria
Object number: TRT_SN50.3
Not on view
DescriptionMany cultures in Africa, Central and South America, and in the Caribbean use seeds or other plant parts as beads with which to make colourful jewellery. Seed necklaces are readily available in many tropical markets and are commonly purchased as souvenirs by tourists. Some of the seeds used in necklaces contain dangerous toxins, so purchasers should beware.The strands of this African necklace are made from pale grey or brown beads called Job’s tears in reference to their shape. They are not seeds, but rather the hollow bracts of the flowers of Job’s tears, Coix lacryma-jobi. The circular pendants on the necklace are made from the base of the thorns of the bullhorn Acacia, Acacia sp. Since the tip of the “horns” have been cut off, they are less recognizable. Acacia thorns are perfect for necklaces because they are hollow. When on the tree, they serve as a nest site for ants. The round black beads in the middle of the pendant are the berries of soapberry (Sapindus saponaria). These berries contain saponin that is used to make soap, while the crushed seeds are toxic to fish. Each of the berries is paired with a dark red, oval seed called a coral bean from the tropical tree Erythrina herbacea. Coral bean seeds contain a curare-like substance that is toxic.
Collection:
seed necklaces
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