Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Cockspur, Grey Nickel - Caesalpinia bonduc



Cockspur, Grey Nickel, Nickers, Nickars - Caesalpinia bonduc
Family: FABACEAE/LEGUMINOSAE

Cockspur is a sprawling or scrambling thorny shrub; the young branches are covered with prickles. The flowers are yellow and the prickly seed pods are green when young, dark brown when mature. They usually contain 2 grey seeds.
Cockspur  is the larval food plant of the Cayman Lucas's Blue butterfly - Cyclargus ammon erembis, Family: LYCAENIDAE, one of Cayman's 5 subspecies of butterfly,
which is the butterfly on the front cover of Butterflies of the Cayman Islands book.
Eggs are laid singly on the flower buds. 
Caterpillars feed on flowers and may live inside the pods, eating seeds.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Grand Cayman, Jan. 20, 2009.

Butterflies of the Cayman Islands book
R. R. Askew and P. A. van B. Stafford
published by Apollo Books Nov. 2008, available locally at
National Trust for the Cayman Islands, Dart Family Park, South Church St, Grand Cayman - US$30.00 or CI$24.00,
and local book stores.
Butterflies of the Cayman Islands

 Cockspur seeds - Nickers/Nickars, have extremely tough seed coats, and were used for playing marbles, as counters for children learning Arithmetic and 
for the Warrie (Wari, Waurie) board game.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Grand Cayman, April 24, 2005.

This shrub is pantropical on sandy seashores, in coastal thickets, open waste ground and on roadside verges.


Cayman's Bananaquit, (an endemic subspecies Coereba flaveola sharpei),
feeding on Cockspur flowers - Caesalpinia bonduc.
Photo: Ann Stafford, Grand Cayman, Nov. 6, 2011.

Environmentally significant Cockspur: 

It is the larval food plant of the Cayman Lucas’s Blue butterfly - Cyclargus ammon erembis Nabokov, 1948 (Family: LYCAENIDAE), one of Cayman’s five endemic subspecies of butterfly. 


Because of its very prickly, unfriendly nature and sprawling habit, it is likely one of the first plants to be cleared. However, if the plant disappears, so to will the endemic Cayman Lucas’s Blue butterfly.

Culturally significant Cockspur:

The seeds, Nickers/Nickars, which have extremely tough seed coats, were used for playing marbles, as counters for children learning Arithmetic and for the Warrie (Wari, Waurie) board game, a traditional African game, widely played in the West Indies.


 Making Warri boards
Photo: M. L. Askew, Grand Cayman, Jan. 27, 2006.
Warri boards at the Cayman Islands National Gallery.
Photo: Ann Stafford, March 10, 2010.
FLORA of the Cayman Islands by George R, Proctor, 2012 
page 382, Fig.137, Plate 29.
The book, published by Kew, is available locally at
National Trust for the Cayman Islands, Dart Family Park, South Church St, Grand Cayman - CI$30.00, and local book stores.