February 9, 2013

0504 SEYCHELLES (Praslin) - Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve (UNESCO WHS)

Praslin, named like that in 1768 in honor of French diplomat César Gabriel de Choiseul, duc de Praslin, is the second largest island of the Seychelles, lying 44 km north east of Mahé. In the heart of the island is Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, an area which was untouched until the 1930s and still retains primeval palm forest in a near-natural state, with six endemic palms, among which is Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica), the sole member of the genus Lodoicea. Also unique to the park is its wildlife, including birds such as the rare Seychelles Black Parrot, mammals, crustaceans, snails, and reptiles.

The Coco de Mer has the largest seeds of any plant in the world, the largest so far recorded weighing 42 kg. The fruit, which requires 6-7 years to mature and a further two years to germinate, is sometimes also referred to as the Sea Coconut, Love Nut, double coconut, coco fesse, or Seychelles Nut. As can be see in the postcard, the double coconut closely resembles with a woman's buttocks. Until the true source of the nut was discovered in 1768 by Dufresne, it was believed by many to grow on a mythical tree at the bottom of the sea. Moreover, in the 19th century the British General Gordon produced detailed 'proof' that the Vallée de Mai was the Garden of Eden and that coca de mer was the tree of knowledge.

In a densely populated island (around 6,500 people on a area of 38 km²), the survival of the Vallée de Mai in itself is a remarkable achievement; but it's far too small to survive on its own in any natural way. Coco de Mer was included in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, being considered an endangered species, and Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve was inscribed in 1983 among UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The stamp is part of a series with fishes, about which I wrote here.

Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve - UNESCO official website
Coco de Mer - Wikipedia

sender: Samuel Banbosse (direct swap)
sent from Victoria (Seychelles), on 17.01.2013
photo: Christoph Vollmer

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