Apocalyptic Botany

By Amanda Carter

Amanda Carter is an Environmental Scientist with a background in waterway health and environmental policy.

Weeds, seeds and Ice Cream Beans. A look at Inga edulis

If you thought plants were boring you haven’t heard about the Ice Cream Bean. This plant produces large pods full of fluffy white pulp, resembling the flavour of vanilla ice cream. The texture? I like to think of it as mucilaginous fairy floss. It’s soft and furry, a little bit slimy, and will make for a handy little treat in the apocalypse.

Originally hailing from South America, Inga edulis falls in that category of ‘plants that could one day overrun our forests and/or civilisation’. It grows fairly well in our subtropical areas and has the potential to become a very naughty weed in the right conditions.

Special seeds are the reason for it’s prolific germination. In the plant world they are known as recalcitrant – that is, they don’t obey the usual order of things. Unlike other seeds, recalcitrant seeds don’t wait to dry out before sprouting and won’t tolerate desiccation and seed saving. They come out of the pod ready to rumble and often sprout before hitting the ground.

Dotted in and around Bellingen, you may see this plant creep onto the weedy watch list for the Mid North Coast. Ice Cream Bean advice? Eat and keep away from bushland – stop those seeds from spreading.

Mucilaginous: producing a viscous or gelatinous polysaccaride substance, sometimes extracted and used in medicines and adhesives.

Recalcitrant: disobedient, refers to seeds that do not tolerate desiccation or undergo drying in their final  developmental stage