Coco de Mer

An image of a giant coffee bean item on a worn but patterned rug.
Coco de Mer from the Eldon House collection

Country of Origin: Seychelles 
Year: ca. 1900s 
Materials: Coconut  

An interesting plant artifact, this seed is called a coco de mer (coconut of the sea) and is the largest seed on earth. It comes from a specific type of palm tree that is only found on two islands in the Seychelles. Unlike other palm or coconut tree seeds, the seed does not naturally float in water. Instead, these seeds sink and then lose their husks, and gases inside cause them to rise. They then wash up on shores around the Indian Ocean.  

Prior to colonization of the Seychelles, many people did not know what these seeds were, as once they have been in water for a prolonged period they do not germinate. Several legends rose out of their unknown origins. Some people thought that these came from underwater trees or were part of women’s bodies because of their shape. Other legends during colonization involved these seeds as being the forbidden fruit from the Bible, being an antidote for poisons, or even a male aphrodisiac! 

This one was likely purchased by Ronald Harris on one of his trips to Africa.