The Seychelles are home to some of the most amazing flora and fauna on the planet, but perhaps none is as unique as the Coco de Mer. This fascinating plant is found only in the Seychelles, and it has a long history, both among the native inhabitants of the region and the rest of the world.
Also know as the Maldive coconut, the Coco de Mer has the largest seed of any plant. The name Maldive coconut derives from the fact that the seeds of the Coco de Mer would fall from the trees in their native Seychelles and fall into the surrounding ocean. The tide then carried those unique and very large seeds to the Maldives, where the natives gathered them and used them in native medicine, for trade and even as a kind of currency.
The Legend of the Coco de Mer
Legends surrounding the Coco de Mer abounded in the ancient world, no doubt fueled by the mysterious appearance of these seeds floating on the ocean. At the time of course, the peoples of the Maldives had no way of knowing the true origins of the seed and the fact that they came from far away in the as then uninhabited Seychelles.
The sudden appearance of huge coconut seeds floating in vast stretches of deserted ocean gave rise to one of the most enduring legends surrounding the Coco de Mer. Legend held that the Coco de Mer was the fruit of a mysterious tree that grew not on land but on the bottom of the ocean. This legend no doubt made the Coco de Mer even more highly prized and sought after, both by the natives of the Maldives and among their trading partners as well.
A Noble Coconut
In fact, noble ladies and gentlemen in the sixteenth century prized the shells of the Coco de Mer so highly that they would often adorn those polished shells with valuable jewels. These polished and bejeweled shells would then form the centerpieces of private art galleries.
The Coco de Mer is still highly prized and highly regarded, but today that precious plant and its unique seeds are protected by law. These days the plant is often grown as an ornamental tree in many parts of the tropics. Groves of Coco de Mer trees have been established within the Seychelles, most notably large plantings on the islands of Silhouette and Mahe. These groves have been established in an attempt to preserve these truly unique plants for future generations.
The Healing Art of the Coco de Mer
The fruit of the Coco de Mer is still highly prized, and it is still used as a form of medicine. Most notably, the fruit of the Coco de Mer is used in traditional Chinese medicine, and in the alternative healing known as Ayurvedic medicine.
A Unique Appearance
The seed of the Coco de Mer is one of the most unique in the world of plants, and no one who has seen one in person will be able to forget it. Perhaps it is the sheer size of the seed that is so impressive. The Coco de Mer holds the record for the largest fruit ever recorded, with one specimen weighing in at an incredible 42 kilograms. The seed of the Coco de Mer holds a similar record, with one seed weighing 17.6 kilograms, making it the heaviest in the botanical world.
The fruit of the Coco de Mer takes a full six to seven years to mature, then another two years to germinate. It is the germinated seeds that dropped from the trees and floated across the ocean all those years ago, giving rise to the legend that this impressive seed actually came from a mysterious underwater tree. Even though we now know better, that knowledge does not detract from the beauty and unique nature of this native Seychelles species. If you are planning a trip to the Seychelles, you simply must visit this most unique of species.