Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Ode to Coco de mer

The virgin forests
of Vallée de Mai
sire a secret
in its palm

a fruit, heavy
with expectation
a primeval seed
seeking inspiration

a heart, voluptuous
erotic, sensuous
holding promise
of genesis

black parrot warbling
songs amorous
green geckos, skinks
an unseemly chorus

a catkin, daggers drawn
the male tree bears
amber inflorescence
ready to strike

a whiff
of zephyr, carries
sweet nothings, whispered
dispersed on air

unseen, unheard
Adam and Eve
Ling and Yoni
mate, untouched

A miracle zygote
Birth of man

Naughty Nature
crafts to perfection
coco de mer seduction
blueprint to human reproduction


Coco de mer is a palm nut (a kind of double-coconut), the heaviest nut anywhere, endemic to Vallee de Mai stretch at the Praslin Island of Seychelles. The Vallee de Mai is a living remnant of the prehistoric forests which existed in the erstwhile Gondwanaland and is one of the two host habitats in the world where this rarest of nuts grows wild. The most astounding part of the real-life lore of coco fesse, as it is also called (fesse is a French word which means ‘butt’!), is thus:

The palm species – Lodoicea maldivica - has separate male and female trees. The female palm bears the nut and the seed within uncannily resembles a woman’s torso. As though that were a mere coincidence, the male tree sends forth catkins which resemble... you guessed it! The male tree is taller than the female and pollination takes place by wind and perhaps, through the medium of geckos that slither on the trees.
These nuts would find their way into the ocean and ancient mariners in their wisdom imagined them to be fruits of some submarine plant species, to be fruits of the sea (hence, the name - in French - coco de mer). Being bulky to the degree of 10- 20 kg, these nuts did not/do not travel far and hence have been preserved in their mother territory.

A few botanical gardens over the world do showcase the palm, but it is a phenomenally slow-growing tree, taking nearly seven years to mature. It is also believed that some of these nuts did travel over the oceans and landed on the Indian coasts and were used as urns or water vessels (kamandalus) by the sadhus!

These ancient palms predate evolution of man!


  1. Beautiful, Padmaja. A person truely in love with, as also knowledgable about nature can write such a nice verse. Thanks so much for sharing with all of us. KB

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