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Nutmeg: not the kind you put on eggnog

By Staff | Feb 26, 2009

The first time I found a nutmeg on Lighthouse Beach I was able to identify it immediately because in my mind’s eye, it had such a distinctive color, just like the nutmeg you see floating on egg nog during the holidays. I assumed that this shell was named based on this similarity in color but I’m told that it received its name because of it’s resemblance to the nutmeg seed kernel found in the fruit of the large evergreen nutmeg tree found on the Spice Islands. The tree produces two spices, nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is the seed kernel and mace is the lacy covering.

Cancellaria reticulate is the scientific name for this species of mollusk. It is found from North Carolina to Brazil, offshore in shallow water and occasionally is washed up on the beach. The surface of the shell is very rough and has six or seven swollen whorls or turns and is sculpted with vertical ribs and revolving grooves, resulting in a lattice or beaded pattern.

The twisted central column has two strong folds, or pleats. The upper fold is larger and spirally grooved. The outer lip has strong, even ridges on its inner surface. . The surface color of the shell is white, pale yellow, or orange, with blotchy, orange-brown bands.

This snail is a vegetarian and lives in the sand in warm, shallow seas anywhere from North Carolina to Brazil. Coastal shelves at a depth of 20 to 30 feet of water provide a habitat for this snail.

In southwest Florida there are occasional reports of albinistic nutmegs. It’s been noted that the Goodlands area in Naples is a good spot for discovery of albinistic specimens.