With more than 2000 listed species of tropical and equatorial plants, some 100 of which are endemic, the Seychelles archipelago is also a botanical paradise. Much of the original coastal vegetation seen by the first explorers is still intact and untouched by man. Picture perfect, heavenly, secluded, one and only, the Seychelles is the only true paradise on earth. One doesn‘t need to imagine for long the reasons that drew the famous artist and botanist Marianne North to the Seychelles, through her paintings, she has immortalized the immaculate beauty of the Seychelles.
Despite the species of plants being scattered across many islands, The Botanical Garden in victoria, Mahe, is one place where people can view them all in one place.
Some species of interest are listed below:
- Coco de Mer or Love Nut: The largest and heaviest nut in the world, no other seed has captured the imaginations of weary wanderers far and wide as has the Coco de Mer. Endemic only to the Seychelles, growing up to 25 - 34 m tall, the palm tree can be found in its natural habitat in the ’Vallee de Mai‘ on Praslin. A few have been translocated to other islands so as to ensure the continued survival of the species.
Being a dioecious species, with male and female flowers located on different plants, it remains a mystery to this day how these plants pollinate.
One belief originated from Malay seamen who had seen the nuts "falling upwards" from the sea bed, and so they had reasoned that these nuts grew on underwater trees, in a forest at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
But one belief, favourite amongst many locals and visitors alike is that because of there unusual, erotic shapes, some people believed the trees made passionate love on stormy nights. According to the legend, male trees uproot themselves, and approach female trees. Apparently the love-making trees are rather shy, and the legend has it that whoever sees the trees mating will die or go blind.
- Bois Meduse or ’Jelly Fish Tree‘: The plant is a small tree with a rounded crown that reaches heights of 10m and has a dark, deeply fissured bark. It is an extremely rare tree that is critically endangered and has resisted all efforts to propagate. It was named ’Bois Meduse‘ (or jellyfish tree) because of the resemblance of the mature fruits to miniature marine medusae.
- Bois Citron or ’Wrights Gardenia‘: Classified as a vulnerable species, wrights gardenia is viewed as one of the most beautiful of the Seychelles trees, this flower is more dominantly found on Aride island, but is cultivated as an ornamental in some gardens on Mahe. Reaching 12cm long, it is small with smooth, greyish-green bark and acutely pointed, dark-green leaves.
- Seychelles Pitcher Plant: Called ’Lalyan Potao‘ in creole, the Seychelles Pitcher plant is a rebel of the botanical world. This plant gets it‘s food from animals it attracts, captures, kills and digests. Additionally, this meat-eating « vegetable » is found only in Seychelles. They can be seen growing on rocks on some hills of Mahe and especially in the mist forests of Silhouette.
- ’Bwa Klate‘: This 5m high tree is on the list of critically endangered species as only some 50 individuals of this extremely rare species may remain. It can be identified by its bright green leaves and striking magenta petioles. The small, round fruits of the bwa klate are dark blue drupes (like the seeds of cherries), growing to just 5 mm long.
- ’Kapisen‘: This is the creole name for the endemic tree Northea hornei. These trees can reach a height of 20m, and have a reddish brown bark and their large leathery leaves are a rich brown on the underside. These trees stand out in the landscape, due to their olive-green appearance, they are particularly found on higher slopes and mountain tops of Mahe.