Favourite souvenirs: black spotted red hauyro seeds

Huayruro necklace

One of my favourite souvenirs from Ecuador is a bright orange-red necklace. It’s made of orange-red seeds with black spots that are known as Huayro. The first time I came across these seeds, I was impressed by the amount of work done by the indigenous people to paint a black spot on each seed. I soon discovered that the tree actually produces the seeds this way which made me feel a bit stupid. However, while doing research to find out what the meaning of Huayro is, and where the seeds come from, I discovered something which really made me feel stupid: the seeds of my necklace are from a very poisonous variety. When you are travelling in Latin America, you will probably come across the Huayro seeds as well, so it’s good to know which Huayro seeds are toxic and which ones aren’t.

The origin of the Huayro seeds

Huayro seeds come from the tree Ormosia Coccinea which grows to a height of 25 to 35 meters. It grows best in a humid environment and can mostly be found in the jungle. The flowers are pink or purple, and the fruit is a small flattened and green seedpod which contains a couple of seeds. People collect the seeds that have fallen to the ground to create jewelry. The seeds come in two varieties: entirely red or red with one black spot covering ⅓ of surface. Indigenous people distinguishes these seeds between male and female: the red one is called hembra or female, and the black spotted seed is called macho or male.

Ormosia Coccinea - the flower, leaf,  and the beans

Toxic seeds

The seeds of the Ormosia Coccinea are poisonous if chewed, so it is okay to wear them as jewelry long as you don’t eat them (so don’t give it to a child). However, I discovered that a similar type of orange-red seed exists which is produced by the Abrus Precatorius. These seeds, on the other hand, contain arbin wich is extremely toxic when ingested or through direct contact with a skin wound. Especially once the seed is crushed it’s dangerous and can even kill. It’s hard to tell the difference between the seeds, but the Ormosia Coccinea (11 – 14 mm) is bigger than the Abrus Precatorius (3 – 8 mm). Also this image may be of help to tell the difference between the Ormosia Coccinea (C & D) and the Abrus Precatorius seeds (H).

The bean of luck

The Huayro seeds are used since pre-hispanic times. For example, the Incas used them to create jewelry or for rituals. The seeds are especially known for their symbolic value: it’s said that they bring and attract good luck, protect against negative energy, and attract good fortune.  To attract good fortune, put a Huayro seed in your wallet. If you rather want protection against negative energy, you can place for example a jar of huayro seeds in your home.

Since I discovered that my necklace is made of the Abrus Precatorius seeds, I’ve decided not to wear it again. While thinking about it I’m not completely surprised that the seeds are poisonous, because most bright coloured things in nature are, but I never really investigated it. Well, I prefer not to risk it, and I’ll save the necklace in a little jar instead. This way I can still enjoy the beautiful colour, and hopefully it will bring me luck as well!



What to do with souvenirs? Turn flags and t-shirts into pillow cases

My collection of flags started in Mexico when my friend Mario gave me a Mexican flag. Being back home in the Netherlands again, one day my mum surprised me with a present: she had turned the flag into a pillow case. I loved the idea! Now I could use the Mexican flag pillow to decorate my couch, and think back of my great time in Mexico while relaxing. Recently, when I was cleaning out my closet I discovered I collected more flags during my travels. Also I had a couple of t-shirts I was very fond off, but I didn’t wear them. Because of the memories I couldn’t throw them away, and immediately thought of the great idea of my mum to turn them into pillow cases.


I wouldn’t really call this a DIY project, as I don’t know how to use a sewing machine. Luckily, I’ve got a great mum that doesn’t mind doing me the favour. If you aren’t handy with a sewing machine either ask a family member or go to a tailor in town.

Stitch a piece of fabric to the flag or t-shirt

To turn the flags and t-shirts into a pillow case, my mum stitched a red fabric at the back of it. One side is left open to put the pillow in.

Pillows come in different sizes

Take into account what the size of your pillow case should be. As you can see the pillows have different sizes. The standard size of small pillows is often 40×40 or 50×50 cm, and for bigger pillows it’s 60×70 or 40×60 cm. If you already have some inner cushions at home, measure them to find out what size they are. New you can buy them for example at Ikea. Surprisingly they are called Inner 😉

Pillows add a personal touch

The great thing with these cushions is that they add a personal touch to your place without having to do a big make over. I recently moved to a new place, and didn’t want to paint my room, but with the pillows on my bed it immediately felt like home.