Coco de Mer - The Sexy Coconut Of Seychelles!

Seychelles is home to some of the most dynamic species which are endemic to it. Likewise, it boasts of the most controversial nut of all times- the Coco de Mer. A French word, the Coco de Mer translates into 'coconut of the sea'. This nut has garnered attention due to its naughty, peculiar shape resembling that of a female bottom. It grows on tall trees and is exclusive to a tiny area in Seychelles. Various legends and myths have been associated with it, and this naughty nut has been the centre of attraction in royal courts. 

These beautiful lines are enough to speak for the nut's enigma and popularity. The real Coco de Mer trees were not discovered until 1743 in Seychelles. General Gordon even named it as the 'forbidden fruit'. Other popular names include sea coconut, love nut, double coconut, and coco fesse.

Coco de Mer Nut, Forbidden Fruit of Seychelles

Decoding Coco de Mer - The National Fruit of Seychelles 

Biological name - Lodoicea Maldivica

Coco de Mer Trees and Leaves 

The Coco de Mer grows on tall trees that have an average height of 25-34 metres. The stem is erect and spineless with rings of leaf scars. There is a large bulbous structure at the base of the trunk, which eventually narrows down towards the bottom. A wide variety of animals live around these trees, suggesting that their evolution would have taken many years.

The leaves are fan-shaped and can be as long as 10 metres and as wide as 4.5 metres. The petiole is about 4 metres in length, and the leaves are plicate at the base. The funnel formed by the leaves traps the pollen which is carried to the base during rainfall, thereby ensuring that the tree has enough nutrients.

Trees and leaves of the Coco de Mer, Forbidden fruit of Seychelles

Flowers and Inflorescence

Inflorescence of the Coco de Mer, Forbidden fruit of Seychelles

Coco De Mer Fruit

Fruit of The Coco de Mer, Forbidden Fruit of Seychelles

Uses of Coco de Mer

Traditional Uses of Coco De Mer Seed 

Bowls made of Coco de Mer, Forbidden Fruit of Seychelles

Modern-day Uses

Buying Coco de Mer

Know the rules before you buy

All the shops selling these nuts need to have proper registration. Each nut is given an ID and a green label. The main idea is to stop illegal poaching and to conserve the few 7000 trees that remain. In short, if the seller is unable to produce the right certificate and papers, DO NOT BUY it.

Where to find Coco de Mer?

A considerable number of these can also be found on the Curieuse Island, another natural habitat of the Coco de Mer. You will have an exciting time exploring the trees as you climb the uphill trail on the island. A few years ago, a small population of the Coco de Mer trees was introduced on the Silhouette Island.

Coco de Mer trees in Vallee de Mai Reserve in Praslin

Where to buy Coco de Mer?

The Coco de Mer nut is the most iconic souvenir to bring home from Seychelles. These can be bought from all licensed gift stores in uptown Mahe, Praslin and La Digue. A few good places to name are St. Anne on Praslin and the La Ciota building near the hospital in Victoria. However, be sure that these have the holographic stickers and the gift shop has a proper certificate. Moreover, do note that the Coco de Mer nuts you buy as souvenirs have their kernels scooped out and are hollow from the inside (so that these cannot be implanted elsewhere). These are sawn in half and then glued back together. Nevertheless, its charming peculiar shape remains intact.

Coco de Mer Price - The Size of a Coco De Mer

shop while having to pay a larger amount for the same in another. So, expect a nut that fits in your budget.

Legends of Coco de Mer - The Seychelles Coconut

The Malay Legend

The Coco de Mer nut was considered to possess magical and mystical properties. The origin of the nut and its tree was unknown, thereby adding to the mysterious nature of the nut. The Malay legend was based on an unknown property of the nut. The Coco de Mer, due to its hefty size, is unable to float on water, thus sinking to the bottom of the sea. Over time, due to biological processes, the outer husk of the nut withers and the inner germinating parts of the plant decay and rot. The gases released as a consequence push the bare seed to the top of the ocean, which is then washed up to distant shores by ocean currents.

The seamen of Malay, therefore according to their intellect, saw these nuts 'falling upwards' from the ocean bed. This led them to believe that there was a forest at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. They even believed that these trees were the abode of the giant bird Garuda, which hunted down the elephants and tigers. The African priests, on the other hand, had another interesting belief. They said that the Coco de Mer trees sometimes rose above the ocean waters and the turbulent waves created as a result obstructed the path of any ship sailing in the vicinity. The Garuda then mauled the people sailing in these ships.

The Legend in the Maldives

The hollow germinated nuts of Coco de Mer were usually carried away by the strong ocean currents to the shores of Maldives, where they were completely unknown. These nuts reaching the shores no longer remained fertile, and therefore no trees emerged from them. The atypical shape of the nut perplexed the inhabitants of this island and made additions to its legend and lore. Any of the Coco de Mer nuts found on Maldives' shore had to be offered to the royal court - keeping it to oneself meant a death penalty. The Dutch Admiral Wolfert Hermansson was gifted with the Coco de Mer nut in 1602 by the Sultan of Bantam in return for his services. The upper part of the nut, however, was chopped off for it would have been an insult to the admiral's modesty. The nut was even believed to possess medicinal properties.

Coco de mer

Legend in Seychelles

The Forbidden Fruit Legend

When the 'love nut' was gifted to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

The Coco de Mer has raised eyebrows since times immemorial. Its shape is what everyone wants to talk about, be it the scientists or the poets or the locals or even the media. There is something so exciting and appealing about this forbidden fruit that you cannot resist your desire to "taste" it. It is truly a pride of Seychelles.

This post was published by Kirti Dass

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