COCO-DE-MER, or DOUBLE COCO-NUT, s. The curious twin fruit so called, the produce of the Lodoicea Sechellarum, a palm growing only in the Seychelles Islands, is cast up on the shores of the Indian Ocean, most frequently on the Maldive Islands, but occasionally also on Ceylon and S. India, and on the coasts of Zanzibar, of Sumatra, and some others of the Malay Islands. Great virtues as medicine and antidote were supposed to reside in these fruits, and extravagant prices were paid for them. The story goes that a “country captain,” expecting to make his fortune, took a cargo of these nuts from the Seychelles Islands to Calcutta, but the only result was to destroy their value for the future.

The old belief was that the fruit was produced on a palm growing below the sea, whose fronds, according to Malay seamen, were sometimes seen in quiet bights on the Sumatran coast, especially in the Lampong Bay. According to one form of the story among the Malays, which is told both by Pigafetta and by Rumphius, there was but one such tree, the fronds of which rose above an abyss of the Southern Ocean, and were the abode of the monstrous bird Garuda (or Rukh of the Arabs—see ROC).1 The tree itself was called Pausengi, which Rumphius seems to interpret as a corruption of Buwa-zangi, “Fruit of Zang” or E. Africa. [Mr. Skeat writes: “Rumphius is evidently wrong. … The first part of the word is ‘Pau,’ or ‘Pauh,’ which is perfectly good Malay, and is the name given to various species of mango, especially the wild one, so that ‘Pausengi’ represents (not ‘Buwa,’ but) ‘Pauh Janggi,’ which is to this day the universal Malay name for the tree which grows, according to Malay fable, in the central whirlpool or Navel of the Seas. Some versions add that it grows upon a sunken bank (têbing runtoh), and is guarded by dragons. This tree figures largely in Malay romances, especially those which form the subject of Malay shadow- plays (vide infra, Pl. 23, for an illustration of the Pauh Janggi and the Crab). Rumphius’ explanation of the second part of the name (i.e. Janggi) is, no doubt, quite correct.”—Malay Magic, pp. 6 seqq.).] They were cast up occasionally on the islands off the S.W. coast of Sumatra; and the wild people of the islands brought them for sale to the Sumatran marts, such as Padang and Priamang. One of the largest (say about 12 inches across) would sell for 150 rix dollars. But the Malay princes coveted them greatly, and would sometimes (it was alleged) give a laden junk for a single nut. In India the best known source of supply was from the Maldive Islands. [In India it is known as Daryai nariyal, or ‘cocoa-nut of the sea,’ and this term has been in Bombay corrupted into ja hari (zahri) or ‘poisonous,’ so that the fruit is incorrectly regarded as dangerous to life. The hard shell is largely used to make Fakirs’ water-bowls.]

The medicinal virtues of the nut were not only famous among all the peoples of the East, including the Chinese, but are extolled by Piso and by Rumphius, with many details. The latter, learned and laborious student of nature as he was, believed in the submarine origin of the nut, though he discredited its growing on a great palm, as no traces of such a plant had ever been discovered on the coasts. The fame of the nut’s virtues had extended to Europe, and the Emperor Rudolf II. in his later days offered in vain 4000 florins to purchase from the family of Wolfert Hermanszen, a Dutch Admiral, one that had been presented to that commander by the King of Bantam, on the Hollander’s relieving his capital, attacked by the Portuguese, in 1602.

It will be seen that the Maldive name of this fruit was Tava-karhi. The latter word is ‘coco- nut,’ but the meaning of tava does not appear from any Maldive vocabulary. [The term is properly Tava’karhi, ‘the hard-shelled nut,’ (Gray, on Pyrard de Laval, Hak. Soc. i. 231).] Rumphius states that a book in 4to (totum opusculum) was published on this nut, at Amsterdam in 1634, by Augerius Clutius, M.D. [In more recent times the nut has become famous as the subject of curious speculations regarding it by the late Gen. Gordon.]

1522.—“They also related to us that beyond Java Major … there is an enormous tree named Campanganghi, in which dwell certain birds named Garuda, so large that they take with their claws, and carry away flying, a buffalo and even an elephant, to the place of the tree. … The fruit of this tree is called Buapanganghi, and is larger than a water-melon … it was understood that those fruits which are frequently found in the sea came from that place,”—Pigufetta, Hak. Soc. p. 155.

1553.—“… it appears … that in some places beneath the salt-water there grows
another kind of these trees, which gives a fruit bigger than the coco-nut; and

  By PanEris using Melati.

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