1. Unknown seed

For some years I had been noticing partially eaten seeds (1) lying around the garden. I had got the idea in my head that they came from some sort of fruit tree, but I could not find any obvious source nearby, so this year I got curious, and examined one of the seeds more carefully. It was covered in a tough fibrous coating, & when I removed this with a sharp knife I found a micro-coconut, complete with the typical coconut face (2).

We had had a Dutch family next door, who had been mad about palms, and had planted 4 in the nature strip some years ago, which have flourished (3 & 4).

2. Seed after 'undressing'

I don't really approve of palms in Brighton - they are a tropical plant, and we are not even near the sea, so I hadn't paid much attention to them as I walked past, but as soon as I saw the face I realised that they were the most likely source, & when I looked at the nature strip under them there were seeds everywhere, in all stages of decay (3) (The two seeds on the right have been 'undressed').

The palms had numerous flower sprays at all stages, from buds to one almost finished spray of fruit, which was the obvious source of all the fruit I had been seeing recently in my garden. The outer covering of the fruit is soft & sticky, and although I haven't tried it the local wildlife must find it tasty, as they have been scattering seeds, minus the outer covering, round my garden for several months.

3. Collection of seeds

I was curious about what was inside the seeds, but I soon found they were extremely well protected. I managed to smash an old one in a heavy duty metal-working vice, but when I tried again with a more tempting looking seed I had to use all my strength to break it (probably to the detriment of the vice), and when it did break it exploded, and the bits vanished in the general chaos in the workshop.

6. Sectioned seed

Notice the small seed & thick shell

So next time I made three axial cuts with a hacksaw along the length of the fruit, between the eyes, and then twisted a screwdriver in the cuts. After several tries (each taking about 15 minutes) I managed to get a reasonably photogenic section (6).

4. Palms on Nature Strip

17 Regent Street

The nut in this photo is about 25mm by 20mm diameter. The seed is about 11mm by 9mm dia, & the shell is about 3mm thick at the thinnest part (which is about the same as a coconut shell). Like the coconut, only one of the 3 eyes is open, but the seed differs in that there is no internal structure. (I think the obvious hole in this seed is the result of testing the eyes with a drill to see which was open.)

The flesh is rather woody, but does taste slightly of coconut. It is certainly not worth 10 minutes work for something roughly the size of a pea. The shell is eventually brittle, but it is very hard, & extremely tough, & it is hard to imagine that anything could get to it.

5. Spray of flowers

I don't remember when the neighbours developed their palm fetish (there are also about 7 palms, of two other species, in the back garden), and I have no idea how or where they caught it, but I don't think it was more than 30 years ago.

The mini-nuts are 10-11mm dia, & the covered fruit is ~14mm dia

Written in May 2017
 © Roger Riordan 2004-2017