The Mysterious and Exotic Plants of Seychelles

Seychelles plants

From the archipelago of the Seychelles Islands springs a host of extraordinary plants with unique and unexpected features. Come explore some of the most mysterious and exotic plants of Seychelles.

Located just a few degrees south of the equator, Seychelles offers a tropical paradise that is home to beautiful and rare plants not to be found anywhere else. While wondrous flora exist all over the world, few can compare with the mysterious and exotic plants of Seychelles.

Exclusive to Seychelles

Of the thousands of plant species to be found in this archipelago of 115 islands, about 250 of them are native to the granitic islands, with about 75 of those to be purely endemic to the region, found nowhere else on Earth.

Arguably the most famous plant endemic to Seychelles is the coco de mer. The male and female plants exhibit remarkable features that curiously resemble certain very recognisable parts of human anatomy. The female variety of this unique palm bears the largest nut in the world, called the coco de mer. The shape of this nut is clearly suggestive of a human female’s torso, hips and buttocks. Consequently, the nut is also referred to as “coco fesse” (meaning, “coconut bottom”). The protected coco de mer nut has become a cultural icon, and is so closely associated with Seychelles that its image is used for the nation’s passport stamp as proof of your visit to the islands.

Once thought to have been extinct, the jellyfish tree survives only on the island of Mahé. This critically endangered tree grows on granitic slopes at the edge of the sea, overlooking Mahé’s turquoise waters. Its deeply-colored bark and shiny, leathery leaves are but backdrops to intriguing blossoms that resemble upside-down jellyfish. Only a few stands of these trees remain, protected within the Morne Seychellois National Park.

Pitcher Plants exist in all over the world, but the Nepenthes pervelli can only be found in Seychelles, high up in the hilly ranges of Mahé and in the forests of Silhouette. This plant’s leaves curl to form a sort of vase, with an appendage at the top forming a lid that, upon maturation, opens wide enough to attract prey, while serving as an umbrella to keep rainwater out. Alluring nectar rims the mouth of the pitcher, while a pool of acidic liquid formed by the plant lies deep inside the waxy throat of the vase. Drawn by the pitcher plant’s colour and nectar, unwitting insects voluntarily enter the pitcher, slide down its waxy inner slope and are digested by the acidic juices! And yet, certain specific insects and organisms survive and even thrive solely within the acid pools of this particular species.

Stunning Curiosities

Although more numerous and wide-spread across the world, there are yet several types of plants found in Seychelles that are no less exotic for their commonality.

Several fascinating trees grow throughout Seychelles. Slow-growing ballnut trees with broad, wide-spread canopies and clumps of small, white, fragrant blossoms are found along coastal areas. The hard-wooded guaiacum boasts bright blue blossoms that give way to golden orange fruits containing red seeds. Producing some of the hardest wood found anywhere, this tree also produces a sap that has been used medicinally.

The flamboyant tree lives up to its name with a showy spectacle of fiery red blossoms among fern-like leaves. The banyan tree’s branches spread out wide and grow virtually horizontal, with roots eerily draping down from the branches until they find the ground to start another stand.

Related to the banana and bird of paradise plants, the traveller’s palm isn’t a true palm at all, but its own genus. Its stems shoot straight out from the mostly buried trunk, as fingers grow out of a hand. Long, broad paddleshaped leaves at the tips of these stems become frayed and fringed in the wind, giving this plant the distinctive look of a lady’s hand fan or a peacock’s open tail. It earned the name of “travellers palm” because the fan’s typical east-west alignment helps sojourners find their way, and because its long stems catch and hold rainwater to refresh passers-by.

Blossoms of Beauty

Flowers typically associated with Hawaii grow in Seychelles, such as tropical hibiscus in various colors, and the propeller-shaped frangipani (also known as plumeria), which releases a strong, heady sweetness in the evenings. Tall spears of sweet-smelling mignonette (also known as reseda) rise up from low-lying foliage. Their spiked heads are dotted with delicate blossoms prized for their perfume.

The graceful and delicate tropicbird orchid (orkid payanke) is but one of about 30 orchid species to be found in Seychelles. The tropicbird orchid is a fragrant, ivorywhite waxy flower with long, white tendrils streaming down from its blossom. This national flower of Seychelles can be found portrayed on the country’s 50 Rupee note.

Exotic Mysteries

Abound in the Islands These are just a few of the captivating plants to be found in the Seychelles Islands. Many more extraordinary plants of marvelous wonder await your discovery.