A good example of a polished Coco de Mer - of fine form and presented on a metal display stand - in excellent condition
Date circa: 1900
The rare Coco de Mer palm (Lodoicea maldivica) is endemic to the Indian Ocean islands of the Seychelles, grows 25-34 metres tall, and produces the largest seed in the plant kingdom. Their mighty, bilobed, flattened fruit take 6-7 years to mature into specimens measuring 40-50 cm across and weighing 15-30 kg. This fruit’s single seed is also referred to as the sea coconut, love nut, double coconut, coco fesse or Seychelles nut.
After germination the nuts fall from the palm trees and rot, becoming hollow and thereby buoyant. Long before the Seychelles became inhabited in the sixteenth century, these nuts were found floating in the sea by sailors, who imagined they resembled a woman's disembodied buttocks. This fanciful association is reflected in one of the plant's archaic botanical names, Lodoicea callipyge, deriving from the Greek words meaning 'beautiful rump'. The suffix 'callipyge' was also used to describe the goddess Venus/Aphrodite.
The current suffix ‘maldivica’ comes from the nuts drifting over 2,000 km East to the Maldives, where they were gathered from the beaches and valued as an important trade item. Until the true source of the nut was discovered in 1768 by the French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, it was believed by many to grow on a mythical tree at the bottom of the sea.
The rarity and unusual shape of the Coco de Mer caused them to become highly prized, and a source of much amusement and desire! European nobles in the sixteenth century would often have the shells of these nuts cleaned, polished and decorated with valuable jewels as collectables for their private galleries.
The following centuries have done nothing to diminish their demand. Continued exploitation coupled with the loss of habitat by wildfire has caused the palm to be lost from three Seychelles islands within its former range - Pierre, Chauve-Souris and Ile Ronde. The Coco de Mer tree is now a rare and protected species, with the trade in nuts controlled by the Coco de Mer (Management) Decree of 1995.
As a hollow, post-germination seed, this stunning antique specimen is under no restriction, and can freely travel to be admired and treasured anywhere in the world.