The palm species bears largest seed known to science
Scientists at the Indian Botanical Garden in West Bengal’s Howrah district have carried out artificial pollination of the only double coconut tree in India, which bears the largest seed known to science.
One of the rare and globally threatened species of palm, the double coconut (Lodoicea maldivica) tree was planted at the botanical garden in 1894 and the artificial pollination is a result of decades of work by scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI).
“The tree took almost a hundred years to mature and when it started flowering, we started looking for this particular palm species in this part of world. We collected some pollen from palms from Sri Lanka but could not successfully pollinate it. Finally, with the help of pollen from another tree in Thailand, the pollination process was successful,” BSI Director Paramjit Singh told The Hindu.
Longest surviving palm
The Double Coconut tree not only bears the largest seed known to science — weighing around 25 kg — but this unique species is also the longest surviving palm which can live for as long as 1,000 years, he says. The palm tree also bears the largest leaf among palms and one leaf can thatch a small hut.
“Successful pollination means that we can have another Lodoicea maldivica in the country. In fact we have two fruits and it might take them another couple of years to mature,” said S.S. Hameed, BSI scientist who has been working on the pollination project since 2006.
This species of palm is diecious (where male and female flowers are borne on different plants). “Fortunately at the Botanical Garden, we had the female plant which can fruit and produce seeds,” Mr. Hameed said. The Indian Botanical Garden which serves as the repository 12,000 trees from 1,400 different species is careful in nurturing the palm.
The palm tree is located in the large palm house of the Botanical Garden which has the largest collection of palms in South East Asia with around 110 palm species.
This rare tree can be found in only two of the 115 Seychelles islands and is also called Coco de Mer (coconut of the sea), says Mr. Hameed
Legend bestows the seed with the power to bring good fortune to its owners. “There has also been a tradition of making kamandals [drinking vessels] from the double coconut by bisecting the shell. It was believed that those who consume water from these kamandals will be protected from poisoning,” Mr. Hameed said. Subsequently, sadhus started using Kamandals and it got its place in religious rituals.