The Coco de Mer is a fruit native to the islands of Praslin and Curieuse in Seychelles. Its name is actually "Lodoicea" but it is commonly referred to as the Coco de Mer, sea coconut or double coconut.
Its seeds are the largest and heaviest in the world, reaching half a metre in diameter and weighing around 25 kilograms. One of six endemic palm species in Seychelles, the Coco de Mer is definitely the most famous, with the largest population found in the Vallée De Mai forest in Praslin.
Coat of Arms
The tree usually grows to a height of between 25 and 34 metres and its characteristics suggest its long evolutionary history has continued under relatively unchanged conditions for thousands of years.
It is held in such high esteem that it appears on Seychelles' coat of arms, which includes a shield, with a giant tortoise and a Coco de Mer palm tree - both endemic species to the islands.
For centuries, the Coco de Mer's origins were a mystery, as the nuts had only ever been found floating in the sea or washed up on the Indian Ocean's white sandy beaches. As they had not been seen growing on land, sailors thought they grew on the sea bed itself - giving rise to the name, "coconut of the sea".
Hence, they were viewed as a rare and fascinating object, with magical and mythological powers. The nuts found in the ocean - which no longer had a husk - were collected and sold for a fortune in Europe and Arabia.
In the 16th century, it was reported that European noblemen and women would collect the shells of the Coco de Mer fruit and have them polished, decorated and studded with valuable jewels in their private galleries.
The name "Lodoicea" was derived from "Lodoicus", in honour of French King Louis XV, as it was the Latin form of his name and related to the period when the islands were under French sovereignty -from the mid-18th century.
It is now a protected species, with the illegal harvesting of kernels outlawed by the Coco de Mer (Management) Decree 1978, revised in 1994 and the Laws of Seychelles' Breadfruit and Other Trees Act (1991). According to scientists, other threats include poaching, wildfires and human-induced fires, infrastructure development and parasites. So, the species is carefully protected and managed.
Today, the Coco de Mer still has a reputation for its mystical qualities and in some countries has a reputation for being an aphrodisiac. In fact, when Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011 and the newlyweds, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, enjoyed a romantic honeymoon in Seychelles, they were given a Coco de Mer nut by the government at the end of their visit to commemorate their stay.
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