Giant Seychelles Coco de Mer
The giant nut is unique not only because of its rarity, size, and handsome price. Most remarkable is its appearance: The female fruit looks like the female sexual organ, the male tree presents itself with an extremely phallic inflorescence.
The plant grows only on Seychelles, about 5000 specimens stand in the Vallée de Mai on Praslin, a high valley of almost 20 hectares, which Unesco declared a World Heritage Site as early as 1983. The mighty, primeval Seychelles palms have only survived on Praslin and the small neighboring island of Curieuse.
Guide Louis is a Coco-de-Mer expert. The strange name sea nut, he tells us, is due to a misunderstanding: “Time and again, nuts plopped into the sea, which was then washed by the current to the distant coasts of India, South Africa or the Maldives. And because no one saw them growing there, they thought they must have come from the bottom of the sea,” says Louis.
The tale persisted, and so in the 16th century the circumnavigator Magellan reported floating nuts growing on a mighty tree deep down in the sea. Sometimes, he boldly claimed, the tree could even be seen in shallower water, but strangely enough, it disappeared as soon as you dived down.
People have always been fascinated by the Coco de Mer, even if they knew little about it. Guide Louis knows all about it. A single sea nut can weigh up to 20 kilos, it takes up to 20 years to grow to maturity and be fertilized – with the largest seeds in the entire plant kingdom coming from male palms.
Months pass before the seeds begin to germinate in the soil, and it takes a year before the first leaf appears. Each new leaf in turn takes a year. And because everything happens so slowly, the life cycle is also long: Supposedly, a Seychelles palm can live up to 800 years, but it has been proven to be a good 300 years old.