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Lodoicea maldivica

When European sailors recovered the first of these giant seeds floating in the Indian Ocean they were thought to be produced by plants growing below the sea. Later, their origin was believed to be the Maldives Islands south of India from where they got their name. Today, it is well known that a tall, sturdy fan palm with a thick trunk and stiff, costapalmate leaves, native only to two islands in the Seychelles, produces these gigantic nuts, the largest seed of any plant, weighing between about 5 and over 20kg. The seed is not very difficult to germinate but it produces a very long "sinker" that anchors the base of the palm and the first leaf deep into the soil. It thus needs a very tall container or should best be planted directly in the ground in its permanent position. The first leaf takes many months to appear and subsequent growth is very slow. Despite these drawbacks, this palm has always been much sought after. Viable seeds have always been in short supply and are now nearly impossible to obtain because the endosperm (the "seed") of nuts originating in the Seychelles is listed on CITES and banned from international trade without proper permits. The reason for this is not the plant trade, but the superstitious use of the endosperm as an aphrodisiac in Asia. Despite the protection measures, illegal trade in Lodoicea seeds is still flourishing and thinly shaved endosperm slices are readily available in shops in Hongkong and elswhere at astronomical prices. At the same time, very few nuts still get to germinate in situ in its natural habitat in the Seychelles and the wild stands are showing signs of aging.

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germination comments by our visitors
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Seeds from this species ...

... are very easy to germinate and need up to 1 month to sprout.
I have successfully germinated two Coco de Mer. Germination itself is easy, but you should follow these steps to avoid problems: 1. Decide where you want to grow the palm. This is critical, as once you plant it, moving it is likely to kill it, so make your decision and stick to it. Full sunlight is OK; make a shade cover of palm fronds for the seed if you do full sun. 2. Submerse the seed in a tub of warm water, about 36 degrees C / 95 degrees F, overnight. No hotter than that is necessary, or you might cook it. The seed should sink in the water; if it floats that is an indicator that it is not viable. 3. Dig a hole, about 3 feet / 1 meter deep, about 12 inches / 30 cm wide, where you want the palm to grow. Refill the hole with a mix of half soil, half peat moss. This step is important because the seed will first send out a tap root, and that root can travel horizontally to someplace you don't want the palm to grow, so the hole with loose soil will provide a place of least resistance where it will want to stay. 4. Place the seed, only about half buried, atop the hole so that the "legs" are over the hole. 5. Water it daily, and be patient. In about 6 to 24 months you will hopefully see a green spike emerge. Wow your friends by having them touch the sharp point of that soil-breaking spike. The spike will eventually split on one side, and the first leaf will come out and up. 6. Important - Do not try germinating the seed in a pot and then transplanting it to the ground; that has a high failure rate.
Submitted on 21/01/2013 by one of our visitors

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plant cultivation comments by our visitors
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If you wish to read more on palm cultivation, we highly recommend Ornamental Palm Horticulture by Timothy K. Broschat and Alan W. Meerow, available in our bookshop.

Ratings and comments reflect individual experiences and the views of our visitors. They do not necessarily describe the most appropriate methods, nor are they necessarily valid for all seeds or plants of this species. Germination and plant cultivation success depends on many different factors; nevertheless, these experiences will hopefully aid you in your effort to get the best germination results from our seeds and the best growth results from your plants.

We recommend:
The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms

The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft, Scott Zona

2nd edition
Completely revised and updated

Hardcover - 528 pages
11 x 8.5 inches

Our rating:
Suitable for: all

The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms is the definitive account of all palms that can be grown for ornamental and economic use. Palms are often underutilized as a result of their unfamiliarity—even to tropical gardeners. To help introduce these valuable plants to a new audience, the authors have exhaustively documented every genus in the palm family.
825 species are described in detail, including cold hardiness, water needs, height, and any special requirements. Generously illustrated with more than 900 photos, including photos of several palm species that have never before appeared in a general encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms is as valuable as an identification guide as it is a practical handbook. Interesting snippets of history, ethnobotany, and biology inform the text and make this a lively catalog of these remarkable plants.

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