What is the world’s largest seed?
Coco-De-Mer are native to uninhabited islands of the Seychelles. People never saw the fruit growing. A few would fall from the tree and make their way into the ocean.
Unlike other coconuts, Coco-De-Mer seeds don’t float. They are really heavy. They sink to the bottom. But then, eventually the outside husk comes off and the inside flesh decays. The bare nut fills with gas and bobs up to the surface.
Sea currents washed the nuts eastward. Sailors occasionally saw these seeds come up from the ocean floor. People believed they grew on trees at the bottom of the sea.
The nuts drifted to the Maldives, where they were gathered from the beaches. The rare nuts were valued. Polished and bejeweled Coco-De-Mer seeds were treasured by European nobles in the sixteenth century.
Finally, in 1768 Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne found the source of these enormous seeds. Dufresne was harbourmaster in Port Louis on Mauritius.* He discovered palm trees up to 100 feet tall on the Seychelle islands. The Seychells are a small group of islands in the Indian Ocean. Nearly all Coco-De-Mer trees are in one valley, the Vallée de Mai, on the island of Praslin.
Coco-De-Mer is French for “coconut of the sea”. They have a lot of other names. The genus is named, Lodoicea, from Lodoicus, Latin of Louis, for King Louis XV of France. The scientific name used to be callipyge, Greek for “beautiful buttocks.” You can see why.
The trees live for hundreds of years, but they are still incredibly rare. Other coconuts spread by floating on the ocean water. By the time this fruit can float, it is no longer fertile. And Coco-De-Mer are dioecious. That means there are male trees and female trees. To make fruit, a female tree must be pollinated by a male tree. To make fruit, you have to have adult male and female trees. Coco-De-Mer trees are now a protected species.
At first the fruit looks like a huge, green heart.
But, inside is a huge double-lobed seed that can weigh up to 40 pounds.
Clusters of this boulder-like fruit weighing some 400 pounds hang nearly 100 feet in the air.
Some fruits have more than one seed.
The Guinness Book of Records agrees. Coco-De-Mer is the world’s largest seed.
* The next year the French East India Company collapsed. Dufresne was suddenly unemployed. He convinced the civil administrator Pierre Poivre, who was also an avid naturalist, to give him two ships to explore the Pacific where he made important discoveries in the south Indian Ocean, in Tasmania and in New Zealand. He was killed by Māori in 1772.