On the gorgeous islands of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean grows a legendary palm, known for producing the largest and heaviest seeds in the world.
The seeds of the double coconut, or coco-de-mer, are up to half a metre long and have a somewhat suggestive form and astonishing weight of around 25kg (55 pounds). Lodoicea maldivica is the only species in its family that is unique to the Seychelles’ Praslin and Curieuse islands. It was once present on the tiny islets of St Pierre, Chauve-Souris, and Ile Ronde (Round Island), all of which are located near Praslin, but it became extinct there for a period before being reintroduced.
The double coconut is said to have medical benefits, however this has yet to be verified. Regardless, the palm remains a popular visual marvel, with solitary nuts presently selling for £500-£2,000!
Unfortunately, the double coconut, like many other species, has been overharvested, and there are currently only around 8,000 wild mature individuals left on the two islands of Praslin and Curieuse. As a result, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies the species as Endangered.
To prevent poaching, the seeds of this priceless palm growing in the wild – and in botanical gardens worldwide that have managed to cultivate them – are carefully secured, sometimes even housed in a cage.
Some palms linked to the double coconut yield some of the world’s biggest seeds, significantly larger than most other palm seeds – albeit much smaller than the double coconut’s (up to 10cm long).
The study of this incredible species may offer scientists with the key to understanding the evolutionary factors that enable plants to develop incredibly enormous seeds. Let us hope to learn more about them soon!