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Lodoicea maldivica

Lodoicea maldivica
Lodoicea maldivica

Taisha Mitchell, BPotD Work-Learn student, is the author of today's entry. She writes:

Today's photographs are of the fruit of Lodoicea maldivica, or the coco-de-mer. The first picture was taken by frequent Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool contributor Mats Ellting aka mellting@Flickr on August 13, 2012 at Bergius Botanic Garden in Stockholm, Sweden. Thank you Mats for this image! The second photograph was released into the public domain by Karelj@Wikimedia Commons (thank you as well!). It was taken at the Prague Botanic Garden in the Czech Republic.

According to the book Edible Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Plants (Vol. 1), Lodoicea maldivica of the Arecaceae (the palm family) is a palm tree that reaches an incredible stature of 25-30 meters. The leaves are borne upon 2-4 meter long greyish-green petioles, while the leaves themsevles grow to 7-10 meters long and up to 4.5 meters wide. This species is dioecious. The male trees bear catkins up to 1 meter in length, while female trees have spikes of 5-13 ovoid flowers with sepals and petals in threes. The enormous fruit is an ovoid, bilobed, and pointed drupe that can reach 40-50cm in diameter and weigh up to 30kg (~66 lbs). The fruit usually contains one seed that is surrounded by a layer called the pyrene (a separate endocarp forming a hard woody layer). The two structures collectively are commonly referred to as the seed, which is considered the largest in the world with a typical size of 28 by 30 cm and a mass as much as 5kg (~11lbs). The enormous stature and size of fruit and seed may be explained as a case of island gigantism, when plants (and animals) endemic to islands grow much greater in size than related species found on the mainland.

This species is slow growing, taking two centuries to reach full size, and 30-60 years to begin flowering. The fruit, with no known dispersal mechanism, may take 5-10 years to ripen. The coco-de-mer forms canopies on hill slopes and valleys in humid tropical rainforest where there is plenty of rain, little temperature variation and excellent drainage. Lodoicea maldivica is endemic to two islands of the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, Curieuse and Praslin (where this tree is found In the Valleé de Mai (May Valley)). In an effort to conserve this species, populations have been established on other islands in the Seychelles, Mahé and Silhouette. The species is also cultivated in tropical botanical gardens. Lodoicea maldivica is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as endangered due to both its small and declining area of occupancy of less than 100 km2 and the decline of the populations (with the main threats being fire, harvesting, and poaching but also including invasive pathogens and introduced species).

Lodoicea maldivica has both modern economic as well as traditional ethnobotanical importance. The seeds are highly valuable, traditionally considered an antidote for various poisons and modernly used in various commercial products such as beverages and perfumes (often without true Lodoicea maldivica content). The inhabitants of Praslin have used this species in many ways, including the leaves for baskets, hats and thatch; the trunk for furniture, crates, and walking sticks; the fruit husk for ropes; and the seed (and its pyrene) for utensils, water storage and liquor manufacture (see: Blackmore et al. 2012. Observations on the morphology, pollination, and cultivation of coco de mer (Lodoicea maldivica (J F Gmel.) Pers., Palmae).. Journal of Botany. Volume 2012: Article ID 687832.).

9 Comments

I saw this enormous seed in a botanical garden in Cuba and took a picture of it, but I did not know where it came from. Thank you for the good description of the tree. Amazing.

Miley Cyrus makes a fool of herself "Twerking" on MTV and UBC publishes a Lodoicea maldivica seed as their immediate next "Botany Photo of the Day."

Coincidence?


After winter storms in the 1960s and 70s, occasional "double coconuts" would wash up on coastal beaches near Perth, Western Australia. At that time, we were told that they were prohibited imports into Australia because of their suggestive erotic shape. Current biosecurity control of imports to Australia is about the the wood and fibre content of the coconuts. Now that they are an endangered species, they no longer seem to wash up on our beaches (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species). Their export from the Seychelles is tightly controlled.

But,... their erotic shape is still a source of amusement, even in the highest circles. In 2011, the Seychelles government presented a double coconut to the newly married Royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, during their honeymoon to the country.
Royal honeymooners' 'erotic' Seychelles souvenir

Thank you for liking my photo.

Mats Ellting
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/mellting/)

I am always intrested in new to me plants,what a great one for me to start out with on this site!

The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and OBSESSION, by Adam Leith Gollner, has a terrific chapter on coco-de-mer, or "The Lady Fruit."

Also plenty of other adventures in the "global underworld of rare-fruit aficionados, fruitarians, fruit smugglers and fruit detectives."

Another great botanical oddity and info.

That's really funny about the Royal Couple's honeymoon present.

Thanks for that! I needed a chuckle.

Jess

I noticed in the article about the Royal Couple's gift, that the reporter recounted a local Seychelle legend that the during the full moon, the coco-de-mer trees walk about in the forest to mate.

What a lovely image of those graceful giants.

I love that!

:-D

Jess

Hey LXR- Thanks for an enjoyable read. What began tongue in cheek turned out to be an interesting article!

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