Coco de mer: Is this the world’s strangest palm tree?

You might have noticed that we have a bit of an obsession with the bizarre and the unusual. So you can only imagine how excited we were when we discovered the coco de mer, a palm tree which can be found on the islands of Praslin and Curieuse in the Seychelles. Because, as you can see, it’s definitely no ordinary palm tree…

Coco de mer

There are two main things that make the coco de mer (otherwise known as a double coconut palm) one of the strangest trees you’ll ever see – its flowers and its fruit. Let’s start with the flowers…

The coco de mer is dioecious, which basically means that it comes in two genders, much like us. The male coco de mer plants can be spotted because of their long, phallic-shaped flower protrusions… No comment.

The coco de mer's male flower

But it’s not just the coco de mer’s flowers that resemble a human body part – its fruit, which only grows on the female palms, is also somewhat human-shaped…

Coco de mer's fruit

Because of the fruit’s, ahem, unique shape, the coco de mer was originally given the botanical name Lodoicea callipyge, “callipyge” being Greek for “beautiful buttocks”.

A coco de mer nut in the surf

I wouldn’t advise trying to compliment your other-half by telling them their behind is shaped like a coconut, though…

The shape of the male flowers and the female fruits of the coco de mer led people to believe that the palms made passionate love to each other on stormy nights. To explain the inconvenient fact that no one had actually seen this happen, it was said that anyone who saw the act immediately either died or went blind.

Close-up of the coco de mer's fruit

It was also believed that the palm’s fruit (which is also known as the sea coconut and the love nut) had magical healing properties. The nuts would fall from the trees, end up in the sea and float to the Maldivian coast, where they were collected by the locals. Because of this, many people originally believed that the nuts grew on a tree at the bottom of the ocean.

Coco de mer nuts

As well as doing the best bottom impression of any other fruit, the coco de mer’s fruit is also one of the heaviest and the largest of the plant kingdom. When mature, the fruit can reach between 40 and 50 cm in diameter and 15 to 30 kg in weight. So it’s little wonder that the fruit takes six to seven years to grow to full maturity!

Fruit growing on the coco de mer palm

Sadly, due to the popularity of the palm’s nuts and the loss of much of its natural habitat, the coco de mer is now an endangered species, with only just over 8,000 mature palms left. So get yourself down to the Seychelles quickly if you want to see this incredible palm before it’s gone forever!

Photo credits: Scarygami, ViloWiki, LindaH, Brocken Inaglory, Fimb, TheLastResorts and Scarygami

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About Dom Stapleton

Dom Stapleton

As well as being the world’s northernmost capital city, Reykjavik in Iceland is also an incredible place to visit.

We stayed in a hotel right in the middle of the city and spent most days walking around from there. The main thing we noticed (apart from the cold, of course) was that the people are so friendly. At home, trying to cross the road is a nightmare, but in Reykjavik, the cars are literally queuing up to let you across.

When my partner and I went, in January 2013, the sun only started rising at about 10 am, which was a strange experience. And it got dark at about 4 pm each day!

Dom works in our marketing team

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