Legend of the Sand Dollar

Sand dollars, dried.
Beautiful pile of sand dollars.

I love this poem. It really gives you so much info in a lovely way. Just to be clear, I didn’t write it! We made this poem into beautiful bookmarks for my nephew and his bride’s Florida wedding reception; guests took them home as a sunny reminder. (Ask me how we made place card holders from seashells and a Dremel tool!)

The Legend of the Sand Dollar

There’s a lovely little legend

That I would like to tell,

Of the birth and death of Jesus

Found in this lovely shell.

If you examine it closely

You’ll see that you find here

Four nail holes and a fifth one

Made by a Roman’s spear.

On one side the Easter Lily,

Its center is the star

That appeared unto the shepherds

And led them from afar.

The Christmas Poinsettia

Etched on the other side

Reminds us of His birthday

Our happy Christmastide.

Now break the center open

And here will release

The five white doves awaiting

To spread Good Will and Peace.

This simple little symbol

Christ left for you and me,

To help us spread His Gospel

Through all eternity.

Bookmarks made from the Sand Dollar Legend poem.
Bookmarks made from the Sand Dollar Legend poem.

Above is a photo of the bookmarks that we made for the wedding. I got a hole punch from Michael’s Crafts (it’s a Martha Stewart item), that makes a cutout of a sand dollar (or starfish, depending on your view). We glued it onto sparkly paper stock, also purchased at Michael’s. A little hot glue and we were in business. They are so pretty in person.

Fun Facts About Sand Dollars

Sand dollars, dried.
Sand dollars, dried.

I love sand dollars. I have been lucky enough to find several washed up on the shore of Sanibel and Captiva over the years, nearly white from being faded by the sun. I’ve also found lots and lots of LIVE ones, which are ILLEGAL to keep in Lee County, Florida. Do you know how to tell the difference?

First, here are some fun facts about these beautiful and mystic animals:

  • Sand dollars are members of the Phylum Echinodermata family (in Greek that means “spiny skin.”
  • When a sand dollar dies and its spines fall off, its skeletal remains (the sand dollar you find on shore) is called a “test.”
  • Sand dollars move along the bottom of the sea by using their spines (tiny hairs called CILIA). Unlike their other relative, the star fish, that moves by using the tubes on its feet.
  • Over 600 sand dollars can live in one square yard.
  • The life span of a sand dollar is six to 10 years.
  • Sand dollars have a mouth with five “teeth” that can pulverize/chew tiny plants and animals.
  • The mouth of a sand dollar is called an “Aristotle’s lantern.” (If you’ve ever shaken a dried sand dollar and heard things rattling inside, it’s the five teeth – also known as the five doves in the Legend of the Sand Dollar!)
  • In calm water, sand dollars stand up. They lie flat in rough waters. (How cool would it be to see an entire ‘army’ of sand dollars standing on end, only partially buried?)
Sand dollar found on the shore.
Sand dollar found on the shore.

Is the sand dollar alive or dead?

MOVEMENT: Place the sand dollar in your palm. Look at its spines (the little hairs that cover the animal, called CILIA). If they’re moving, it’s alive.

YELLOW STAIN: Hold the sand dollar in your hand for a minute, if it stains your skin yellow, it’s alive. (That substance is called echinochrome. It is harmless to humans.)

HAIRY OR SMOOTH? Dead sand dollars are smooth and free of their spines/hairs. If it’s hairy, let it bury – place it in the water.

COLOR: Sand dollars fade to gray or white when they die.  When alive, they can be dark brown to purplish-reddish.

Live sand dollar in the water. See its hairy edges?
Live sand dollar in the water. See its hairy edges?

I have the best luck finding sand dollars early in the morning – the early bird definitely gets the washed-ashore sand dollar. Also, try the out-islands, like Cayo Costa. Happy hunting!