A Palm Tree that Waters Itself?
Some people are born with an intuition for plants and gardening, like the grandmother who cherishes her garden and can nurture any flower back to health from the brink of death. Others can kill a plant by looking at it the wrong way. For those in the latter group, the lodoicea maldivica, or coco de mer palm tree is the answer to your prayers. This palm tree waters itself and even fertilize itself. Even the most dismal gardener can handle watching this beauty thrive!
Unfortunately, this palm can’t be found at any home and garden center. It grows on only two islands in the world in the Seychelles. How can a tree survive being so self-dependent, you ask? The coco de mer actually roots itself in soil made from weathered granite. Without any nutrients to speak of, the tree spends up to a decade growing leaves on very tall stalks that reach the forest canopy. Upon adulthood, the trunk begins to crow and pushes the crown of fronds upward.
It sounds impossible, but the coco’s unique architecture allows it to collect rainwater and nutrients to be sent back to the roots. This self-sufficient system is so perfected that it can be visibly seen during a rainstorm as the palm’s large leaves catch water, send it to the stalks, and let it flood down the trunk.
Ingeniously, this palm tree’s water also scoops up the nutrients of bird, snail, and lizard droppings on the way down the trunk, along with any remaining pollen. With so much nutrition, the female trees are able to produce fruits containing seeds as large as 40 pounds!
Of course, the downside to this self-sustainability is extremely slow growth. A female tree might produce one fruit per year, with another six years required for the fruit to fully develop. It’s possible that only one leaf will grow each year on a coco de mer as well!
Ecologists applaud the efficiency of this palm, which stands at the forefront of trees able to withstand the unpredictable and often intense climate patterns that have developed in the past ten years.