Wednesday, March 9, 2011

coco de mer, double coconut, beautiful rump

a seedling growing
i was horribly afraid one of those 20 kg seeds would fall on my head

these strange coconut palms, native to the seychelle islands, were quite the sight at the royal botanic gardens in peradineya, sri lanka. the seeds are the largest and the heaviest in the world taking 5 years to mature and weighing upwards of 30 kgs!! it is a true case of island gigantism having also the largest female flowers of any palm and the longest leaves!

there's a story that when sailors came across these floating seeds in the ocean (where they get the name 'coco de mer'), they imagined them to be the beautiful buttocks of island ladies. this mythology corresponds with the archaic botanical name Lodoicea callipyge, where 'callipyge' is from greek words meaning "beautiful rump!" This later contributed to the legend that the nuts were aphrodisiacs.

With the seeds being highly valuable and prized, the plant is now threatened in its native environment with only two wild populations remaining, but can be seen in botanical gardens throughout the world.

Its true botanical name is Lodoicea maldivica and it is the sole member of the genus Lodoicea.

the nuts are apparently used in ayurveda and chinese traditional medicine.

A truly strange and intriguing plant!

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