The coco-de-mer or double coconut produces the largest seed in the world. Seeds, enclosed in their hard shells, were found washed ashore on the coasts of the Indian ocean, yet the tree that produced them was for long unknown. Magic properties were ascribed to the nuts which changed hands for vast sums of money and a story arose that the seeds were borne on a tree growing at the bottom of the ocean. When the Seychelles Islands were explored in the eighteenth century, the double coconut was discovered growing in forest there.
The double coconut has separate male and female trees. The huge nuts are enclosed in a smooth husk which breaks when the ripe fruit falls to the ground. In the past over-harvesting of the nuts for sale to tourists altered the structure of the wild double coconut population but there is now some control over the collection of nuts.
Find out more
You can see a coco-de-mer in the Palm House
Search Kew's electronic Plant Information Centre for scientific information about Lodoicea maldivica