Coco de Mer
Common name: Coco de Mer
Also named: Double Coconut, Forbidden Fruit, Love Nut
Size: This palm has the longest leaves and the largest and heaviest seeds of any plant in the world. The plant may grow up to 34 metres in height, with leaves up to 10m in length and 4m in width. The male and female flowers are borne on separate trees and the male catkins can reach 1 metre long, making them the longest in the world. The seeds can weigh as much as 30kg.
Lifespan: Coco de Mer palms take between 25-50 years to reach maturity and bear fruit. Friut may take up to 2 years to germinate.
Range: Natural stands of the Coco de Mer are only found on the islands of Praslin and Curieuse in the Seychelles. The best preserved Coco de Mer forests, the Vallee de Mai on Praslin is made a UNESCO World Heritage Site of Seychelles. Individuals are also being cultivated in various botanic gardens around the world.
Threats: The seeds of the coco-de-mer are highly prized and the collection of seeds has virtually stopped all naturalregerneration. Stringent procedures are enlisted by the Seychellois government to ensure the protection of the species.
Historical background: It was said to be not only a powerful aphrodisiac but a complete antidote to any poison. The Hapsburg emperor RidolphII offered 4000 gold florins for a single nut.
However, it was the nut's remarkable similarity to the human female abdomen and buttocks that most readily excited popular imagination. General Gorden, the ill-fated hero of Khartoum, claimed after visiting the Seychelles in 1881 that Praslin was the site of the Garden of Eden and that the Coco de Mer palm was the Tree of Life.
Traditional uses: Trunk as building timber leabes as thatch, wall partitions, hats, mats, baskets. Their shells made good Falkir's bowls used by pilgrims to Mecca. Fishermen used half nuts as ballers in their boats and whole nuts as their water gourds on their fishing ships.