It grows to 25-34 m tall, the leaves are fan-shaped, 7-10 m long and 4.5 m wide. It is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The male flowers are catkin-like, up to 1 m long. The mature fruit is 40-50 cm in diameter and weighs 15-30 kg, and contains the largest seed in the plant kingdom. The fruit, which requires 6-7 years to mature and a further two years to germinate, is sometimes also referred to as the Sea Coconut, double coconut, coco fesse, or Seychelles Nut.
In centuries past the coconuts that fell from the trees and ended up in the sea would be carried away westwards by the prevailing sea currents. The nuts can only float after the germination process, when they are hollow.
Legend has it that sailors who first saw the nut floating in the sea imagined that it resembled a woman's disembodied rear-end. This association is reflected in one of the plant's botanical names, Lodoicea Callipyge meaning 'beautiful rump'.
Until the true source of nut was discovered in 1768, it was believed by many to grow on a mythical tree at the bottom of the sea; European nobles in the sixteenth century would often have the shells of these nuts cleaned and decorated with valuable jewels as collectibles for their private galleries.