Coco de mer

Coco de mer

Lodoicea maldivica is a legendary palm tree that produces the largest seed in the world.

The female flower is also the largest of all palm flowers.

Growth is very slow: it takes 20-40 years before it starts to flower, 5-7 years before a seed is ripe and up to 2 years before germination. Only when ripe can the seed float, when it is hollow.

Therefore, it is difficult to maintain the existing population and replace palm trees died by natural causes or hurricanes.

This palm tree is protected by the Coco de Mer Decree and seeds are rarely available commercially.

It is difficult to grow and only suitable for tropical regions and warm greenhouse.

Lodoicea maldivica young plant

Lodoicea maldivica young plant

Description:

Lodoicea maldivica is a palm tree with a trunk up to more than 24 m height. The highest specimen was 57 m high. The trunk is solitary, with a diameter up to 50 cm, light tan in its younger parts and light gray to dark gray in its older parts, swollen at the base. Male specimens are larger than female.

The leaf crown is formed by 15-20 leaves, almost round, sometimes with hanging dead leaves at its base. The petiole is 1.8-3.6 m long. The leaf blade is deeply costapalmate, 5,4 m long and 3,6 m wide. The segments are fairly shallow in younger trees, deeper in older trees. They are lanceolate, leathery, stiff but lightly pendent at the tip. The leaf is shiny dark green on both sides.

The inflorescence appears from between the leaf bases. The male inflorescence is a fleshy, pendent spike, 1.8 m long and 8 cm thick, with white star-shaped flowers without peduncle. The female inflorescence is shorter, with several thick, fleshy branches, with very large, fleshy white flowers without peduncle. They are the largest flowers of all palm flowers.

The fruit is huge: up to 50 cm long and 30-40 cm wide and can weigh up to 20 kg. It is almost black at maturity and looks like a coconut. It takes 5-7 years to mature.

The seed is almost as large as the fruit itself and consists of 2 semi-circular lobes separated by a deep groove.

Lodoicea maldivica in forest

Lodoicea maldivica in forest

History:

In 1563, the fruits were first mentioned by Garcia de Orta. At that time, fruits floating at large and stranded fruits were already found on beaches in Maldives, Sri Lanka and India, but they did not know where they came from. It was first thought that they were the fruit of a tree that grew on the bottom of the sea.

In 1768, Marion-Dufresne discovered the palm tree on the Seychelles.

The seeds were a rarity and traded at high prices. They were used as decorative objects and often decorated.

They were also used in Indian medicine, as well as in Japanese and Indonesian medicine and are still used in Chinese medicine as aphrodisiac.

Non-viable seeds are now often sold to tourists.

Nomenclature:

Common names:

Coco de mer, double coconut, sea coconut

Lodoicea maldivica fruit

Lodoicea maldivica fruit

Synonyms:

Borassus sonneratii, Cocos maldivica, Cocos maritima, Lodoicea callypige, Lodoicea sechellarum, Lodoicea sonneratii

Etymology:

Lodoicea: in honor of King Louis XV
Maldivica: in reference to the place of origin, the Maldives

Origin:

Curieuse and Praslin, 2 small islands in the Seychelles

Habitat:

Grows in large stands in forests and moist valleys at low elevation



Hardiness:

USDA zone 10-11

Care:

Soil:

Well-drained soil, any soil

Exposure:

Partial shade for young plants, sun when taller

Water:

Keep the root ball moist all year round

Lodoicea maldivica male inflorescence

Lodoicea maldivica male inflorescence

Propagation:

Propagation can only be achieved by seed. It is very difficult to find seeds because the plant is protected and permits to sell seeds are rarely granted.

So they are very expensive, I saw one at 600 EUR (approx. 700 USD) per seed.

Germination may take up to 2 years.

The seedling immediately forms a thick and deep pen root, it should be sown directly in situ or in a large, deep tub.

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