The Vallée de Mai on Praslin, Seychelles' second largest island, contains the largest
intact forest of the endemic coco de mer palms, Lodoicea maldivica.
The Coco de mer nut holds the record for the largest leaf and the biggest seed in the
entire plant kingdom. So rare, early sailors thought they came from a tree growing
beneath the ocean. The mysterious nuts came to be called coco de mer or "coconut of the
sea." Commonly called a "double coconut", it is not a coconut but grows on a fan-leaf
palm with the two sexes on different trees. The "female" trees do not bear until they are
more than 100 years old. After germination, it takes about 7 to 10 years the first leaf to
appear. Coco-de-mer is also said to be a powerful aphrodisiac.
In the past, the fronds of the coco de mer palm were used to make thatch roofs, the jelly
inside the seed was considered a delicacy and the hard shell was carved into bowls and
spoons. Many myths are associated with this giant nut. According to local folklore, the
male palm moves across at night to the female palm to mate; anyone, according to
legend, who sees the palms mating, will die - a strong disincentive to voyeurs!
But Praslin and especially the Vallee de Mai is also home to other endemic plants and
animals like the rare Black Parrot which is only found here.

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Photography by Rosi Giua, Paul Turcotte and STMA