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  • Writer's pictureSharon Bonne

The Puzzling Truth About the Coco de Mer

The Coco de Mer, scientifically known as Lodoicea maldivica, is a palm tree species native to

the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

The worlds largest nut, the Coco de Mer
The "double coconut"

Often referred to as the "love nut", or double

coconut".


This remarkable plant has captivated human imagination for centuries due to its

unique features and mythical allure.


In this article, we will delve into the scientific fun facts surrounding the Coco de Mer, exploring its intriguing biology, historical significance, and cultural legends.


The Largest Seed in the Plant Kingdom Coco de Mer is renowned for

producing the largest seeds in the entire plant kingdom.


Girl holding large Coco de Mer
Girl holding large Coco de Mer


These massive seeds can weigh up to 30 kilograms (66 pounds) and measure around 40-50 centimeters (15-20 inches) in diameter.

The seeds' colossal size and peculiar shape, resembling a woman's pelvis and buttocks, have

contributed to its association with sensuality and fertility in folklore.


One of the most remarkable aspects of the Coco de Mer is its slow growth and longevity. It

takes around six to seven years for the seed to germinate and another 25-30 years before the

tree starts producing its own fruit. The Coco de Mer is known for its exceptional lifespan,

with some individuals surviving for several hundred years, adding to the air of mystery

surrounding the species.


The Coco de Mer thrives in its native habitat on two islands in the Seychelles: Praslin and

Curieuse. Its natural distribution is limited to just these islands, making it an extremely rare

species.

Due to overexploitation and habitat destruction, the Coco de Mer was listed as

vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is now

protected under Seychelles law to prevent further depletion.


The Coco de Mer has puzzled scientists and explorers for centuries due to its limited natural

distribution. The prevailing hypothesis is that the seeds are dispersed by ocean currents,

floating great distances from their native islands. It is believed that the seeds can survive in

seawater for extended periods, which facilitates their dispersal to distant shores. However,

through various experimentations at the Coco de Mer Collection, we have discovered that it

actually sinks (after long periods of time in water)

Floating Coco de Mer
Floating Coco de Mer

due to it’s permeable husk and heavy weight. The floating coco de mer of legend would only have lifted due to the gases inside the nut released by decomposition of the kernel.


Historically, the Coco de Mer played a crucial role in the lives of Seychellois people, who utilized almost every part of the tree for various purposes.

The nutritious kernel of the Coco de Mer seed, once believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac, was considered a delicacy. The fibrous husk, known as "coir" was used for making ropes and crafts, while the palm fronds were employed for thatching roofs.


The Coco de Mer has been steeped in legends and mythology across various cultures. The ancient Maldivian legends depict the Coco de Mer as the "forbidden fruit" often associated with love and passion. Its suggestive shape has led to numerous tales of romantic escapades and intrigue.


Girl with Coco de Mer nut
Girl with Coco de Mer nut

Additionally, the Coco de Mer's discovery on remote beaches by sailors fueled

stories of mermaids and mythical sea creatures.


The Coco de Mer, Lodoicea maldivica, stands as a botanical wonder, captivating both scientists and enthusiasts with its size, slow growth, and cultural significance.

This enigmatic palm tree has been an integral part of the Seychellois heritage for centuries

and continues to spark curiosity and fascination worldwide.


As efforts to conserve this rare species persist, we can only hope that future generations will also be able to marvel at the beauty and allure of the Coco de Mer, a true testament to the wonders of the natural world.



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References


Bibliography:

• Johnson, D. M., & Lutz, J. A. (2018). Giant seeds, wind gaps, and species


diversity in a tropical forest. Ecology Letters, 21(3), 325-334.


• Kozlowski, T. T., & Pallardy, S. G. (2002). Acclimation and adaptive responses of

woody plants to environmental stresses. The Botanical Review, 68(2), 270-334.

• World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. (2021). Lodoicea maldivica. The

Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved from

https://wcsp.science.kew.org/namedetail.do?name_id=171988


• Fleischer-Dogley, F., Matatiken, D., & Laboudallon, V. (2008). Biodiversity and

conservation of the Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica) in the Seychelles.

Biodiversity and Conservation, 17(6), 1427-1448.

Filer, D. L. (2011). An ecology of the Lodoicea maldivica (palm) forest on Praslin,

Republic of Seychelles. Biotropica, 43(1), 23-30.


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