Mancala World

Nickernut → Portuguese.

Nickernuts are the seeds of the Gray Nickernut (Caesalpinia bonduc) and related species such as Brown Nickernut (Caesalpinia major) and the Msolo (Caesalpinia cristata). They are the most popular counters for playing mancala games in Africa and the Caribbean. The shrub is called "Gray Nickernut" or "Gray Nicker Bean" in English, "Molukkenbohne" in German, "canique gris" in French, "komwe" in Swahili and "matojo de Playa" in Spanish.

On Barbados, they are known as "horse nickers". Popular ethymology says that their name derived from "arse nickals" because they contain some arsenical.

The gray nickernuts are used to play Oware in Ghana, the brown nickernuts for Warri on Antigua and the grey ones for Bao on Zanzibar.

Today the plant is established in nearly every tropical shore worldwide including Guam, Hawaii, Florida, the Caribbean and Africa.

The seeds are usually found in pairs, on pods protected by thorns. In fact, the shrub (in Antigua called Warri Tree) is completely covered with hooked spines.

The Caesalpinia genus belongs to the Fabaceae family (formerly Leguminosae), and to the Caesalpinioideae subfamily. The genus Caesalpinia is of controversial size (70 and 165 species according to different authors).


See also

Counters for playing mancala games


Armstrong, W. P.
A Game Called Island Wari: A Board Game From The Caribbean Islands. In: Wayne's Word 1997 (3); 6.
Francis, J. K. 
Caesalpinia bonduc (L.) Roxb.. International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF), Río Piedras (Puerto Rico) May 23, 2003.
Iziko Museums (Ed.). 
Biodiversity Explorer. 2004


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By: Ralf Gering & Víktor Bautista i Roca.
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