he coco de mer is a much-loved cultural and botanical icon of the Seychelles,” says Katy Beaver, a plant expert on the islands who has been studying the rare palm for many years. The coco de mer, also known as the sea coconut or double coconut, is endemic to the islands and produces the largest and heaviest seeds in the world , a fascinating case of island gigantism. The suggestive shape of the seed has also earned it plenty of attention. Shrouded in folklore and legends, the palm is found growing naturally on only two of Seychelles’ 115 islands – Praslin, the second largest island in the country after Mahé, and nearby Curieuse. With only about 8,000 mature trees in existence today, the plant is named as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. Young coco de mer palms in the Vallée de Mai nature reserve, a Unesco heritage site on Praslin Island, in Seychelles. Photograph: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty The coco de mer palm is dioecious – it has separate male and female plants that can take up to 50 years to reach sexual maturity, depending on environmental conditions – and its extremely slow growth […]

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