The tree grows to 25–34 m tall. The leaves are fan-shaped, 7–10 m long and 4.5 m wide with a 4 m petiole. 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.
The main populations of coco-de-mer palms are found within the Praslin and Curieuse National Parks. Cultivated palms are grown on a number of other islands. It formerly also was found on St Pierre, Chauve-Souris and Ile Ronde (Round Island, an islet near Praslin) in the Seychelles group, but has become extinct on these islands.