Natural habitat of the coconut palm tree
The coconut palm
) is a
member of the family Arecaceae
(palm family). It is the only species in
the genus Cocos
, and is a large palm,
growing to 30 m tall, with pinnate leaves
4–6 m long, and pinnae 60–90 cm long; old
leaves break away cleanly, leaving the trunk
smooth. The term
refers to the seed
the coconut palm
. The spelling
is an old-fashioned form of the
The coconut palm is grown throughout the tropics
for decoration, as well as for its many
culinary and non-culinary uses; virtually every part of the coconut
palm has some human uses.It was originally classified in Cocos
genus along with the coconut, but was later moved to Syagrus
. A recently discovered palm, Beccariophoenix alfredii from Madagascar is nearly identical to the coconut, even more so
than the queen palm.
cold-hardy and makes a good coconut-lookalike for many cooler
The coconut has spread across much of the tropics, probably aided
in many cases by seafaring
fruit in the wild is light, buoyant and highly water resistant, and
evolved to disperse significant distances via marine currents
. Fruit collected from
the sea as far north as Norway are
In the Hawaiian
, the coconut is regarded as a Polynesian introduction
, first brought to the
islands by early Polynesian voyagers from their homelands in
. They are now almost ubiquitous
between 26°N and 26°S except for the interiors of Africa
of the coconut palm are polygamomonoecious
, with both male and
female flowers in the same inflorescence
. Flowering occurs continuously.
Coconut palms are believed to be largely cross-pollinated
, although some dwarf varieties are
self-pollinating. The "nut" of the coconut is the edible endosperm
, located on the inner surface of the
shell. Inside the endosperm layer, coconuts contain an coconut juice
that is sweet or salty or
both sweet and salty.
Coconuts received the name from Portuguese
explorers, the sailors of
Vasco da Gama
in India, who first
brought them to Europe
. The brown and hairy
surface of coconuts reminded them of a ghost
was called nux indica, name given by Marco
Polo in 1280 while in Sumatra, name taken
from the Arabs who called it jauz-al-Hindi.
arrived in England, they retained the coco
- The origins of this plant are the subject of controversy.
- Most authorities claiming it is native to South Asia (particularly the Ganges Delta), while others claim its origin is
in northwestern South America.
- Fossil records from
Zealand indicate that small, coconut-like plants grew there
as long as 15 million years ago.
older fossils have been uncovered in Kerala, Rajasthan, Thennai in Tamil Nadu at banks of River Palar, Then-pennai,
Thamirabharani, Cauvery and Mountain sides at Kerala borders,
oldest known so far in Khulna, Bangladesh.
- Mention is made of coconuts in the 2nd–1st centuries
BC in the Mahawamsa of Sri Lanka. The later Culawamasa states that King Aggabodhi I (575–608) planted a coconut garden of
3 yojanas length, possibly the earliest
recorded coconut plantation.
The coconut tree
The coconut palm thrives on sandy soils and is highly tolerant of
. It prefers areas with abundant
sunlight and regular rainfall (150 cm to 250 cm
annually), which makes colonizing shorelines of the tropics
relatively straightforward. Coconuts also need high humidity (70–80%+) for optimum growth, which is why
they are rarely seen in areas with low humidity, like the Mediterranean, even where temperatures are high enough (regularly
above 24°C or 75.2°F).
Coconut palms require warm conditions for successful growth, and
are intolerant of cold weather. Optimum growth is with a mean
annual temperature of , and growth is reduced below . Some seasonal
variation is tolerated, with good growth where mean summer
temperatures are between , and survival as long as winter
temperatures are above ; they will survive brief drops to . Severe
frost is usually fatal, although they have been known to recover
from temperatures of . They may grow but not fruit properly in areas
where there is not sufficient warmth, like Bermuda.
The conditions required for coconut trees to grow without any care
- mean daily temperature above 12-13C every day of the year
- 50 year low temperature above freezing
- mean yearly rainfall above 1000 mm
- no or very little overhead canopy, since even small trees
require a lot of sun
The main limiting factor is that most locations which satisfy the
first three requirements do not satisfy the fourth, except near the
coast where the sandy soil and salt spray limit the growth of most
other trees (Palmtalk).
The range of the natural habitat of the coconut palm tree is
delineated by the red line in map C1 to the right (based on
information in Werth 1933, slightly modified by Niklas
Coconut and copra output in 2005
Coconut trees are very hard to establish in dry climates, and
cannot grow there without frequent irrigation; in drought
conditions, the new leaves do not open well, and older leaves may
become desiccated; fruit also tends to be shed.
Plant densities in Vanuatu for copra
production are generally 9 meter, allowing a tree density of
100–160 trees per hectare.
Pests and diseases
Coconuts are susceptible to the phytoplasma
disease lethal yellowing
. One recently selected
, has been bred for resistance
to this disease. The fruit may also be damaged by eriophyid
coconut mites. The coconut is also used
as a food plant by the larvae
of many Lepidoptera
) species, including Batrachedra spp
: B. arenosella
(feeds exclusively on Cocos
), B. mathesoni
(feeds exclusively on
), and B. nuciferae
(the "coconut leaf beetle") feeds on young leaves
and damages seedlings
and mature coconut palms
. On September 27,
2007, Philippines' Metro
Manila and 26 provinces were
quarantined due to having been infested
with this pest (to save the
$800-million Philippine coconut industry).
In Kerala the major pests of
coconut are the Eriophyid mite, the rhinoceros beetle, the red Palm
weevil and the coconut leaf caterpillar. The hyid coconut mite
is devastating, and can cause damages up to 90% in coconut
production. The immature nuts are infested and desapped by larvae
staying in the portion covered by the perianth of the immature nut.
Subsequently, the nuts drop off or survive deformed. Spraying with
wettable sulfur 0.4% alternately with neem-based pesticides can
give some relief, but is cumbersome and labor intensive. Research
on this topic gave no results and the researchers from the Kerala
Agricultural University and the Central Plantation Crop Research
Institute, Kasaragode are still searching for a cure. The /Krishi Vigyan Kendra,
has developed an innovative extension
approach called Compact area group
to combat coconut mites.
Coconut Cultivation in India
[[File:Keralaback (18).jpg|thumb|left|Coconut Trees in the House
near theBackwaters of Kerala]]
Sunset amidst Coconut Trees, in the
backwaters of Kerala
Coconut palms are grown in more than 80 countries of the world,
with a total production of 49 billion nuts. The shares of coconut
growing countries in production are: Indonesia (25.7%), Philippines
(23.2%), India (23%), Sri Lanka (4.4%), other countries (23.7%).
The productivity of the crop is the highest in India with 7572
Traditional areas of coconut cultivation in India are the states of
Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal,
Pondicherry, Maharashtra and Islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman and
Four southern states put together account for 92% of the total
production in the country (Kerala 45.22%, Tamil Nadu 26.56%,
Karnataka 10.85%, Andhra Pradesh 8.93% and other states 8.44%).The
above data are as per Kerala Agriculture Site.
Coconut is cultivated mainly in the following Indian States
- Kerala (All India Production 45.22%)
- Tamil Nadu (All India Production 26.56%)
- Karnataka (All India Production 10.85%)
- Andhra pradesh (All India Production 8.93%)
- Other States like Goa, Maharashtra, Orisa and West Bengal
Growing in the United States
states in the U.S. where coconut palms can be grown and reproduced
outdoors without irrigation are Hawaii and south
Florida. Coconut palms will grow from coastal
Pinellas County and St. Petersburg southwards on Florida's west coast, and Melbourne southwards on Florida's east coast.
occasional coconut palm is seen north of these areas in favoured
microclimates in the Tampa and Clearwater metro area and around
Cape Canaveral, as well as the Orlando-Kissimmee-Daytona Beach
metro area. They may likewise be grown in favored
microclimates in the Rio Grande
Valley area of Deep South Texas near Brownsville and on Galveston Island.
They may reach fruiting maturity, but are
damaged or killed by the occasional winter freezes in these areas.
While coconut palms flourish in south Florida, unusually bitter
cold snaps can kill or injure coconut palms there as well.
Keys and the coastlines provide safe havens from the
cold for growing coconut palms on the U.S. mainland.
farthest north in the United States a coconut palm has been known
to grow outdoors is in Newport Beach, California along the Pacific Coast Highway.
coconut palms to survive in Southern
, they need sandy soil and minimal water in the
winter to prevent root rot, and would benefit from root heating
Coconut production in the Middle East
coconut producing area in the Middle
East is the Dhofar region of
Oman. In particular, the area around Salalah maintains large coconut plantations similar to
those found across the Arabian Sea.
The large coconut groves of Dhofar were
mentioned by the medieval Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta
in his writings, known as Al
. This is possible due to an annual rainy
season known locally as Khareef
Coconuts also are increasingly grown for decorative purposes along
the coasts of the UAE and Saudi Arabia with the help of irrigation.
UAE have, however, imposed strict laws on mature
coconut tree imports from other countries to reduce the spread of
pests to other native palm trees,
such as the date palm.
Philippines is the world leader in coconut production (2007),
followed by Indonesia, and India in distant
Kerala is the
largest coconut growing state in India, and is famous for the most
tender coconuts in India.
And, they are also famous for the
coconut-based products like tender coconut water, copra, coconut
oil, coconut cake, coconut toddy, coconut shell-based products,
coconut wood-based products, coconut leaves, and coir pith.
In some parts of the world (Thailand and Malaysia), trained
are used to harvest
coconuts. Training schools for pig-tailed macaques
still exist both in southern Thailand, and in the Malaysian state of Kelantan.
Competitions are held each year to find the
Illustration of a coconut tree
Layers of the coconut fruit
, a coconut is a simple dry nut.
The husk, or mesocarp
, is composed of
inner stone, or endocarp
is the hardest
part of the nut. The endocarp (the outside of the coconut as sold
in the shops of non-tropical countries) has three germination pores
clearly visible on the outside surface once the husk is removed. It
is through one of these that the radicle
emerges when the embryo
to the inside wall of the endocarp is the testa
, with a
thick albuminous endosperm
"meat"), the white and fleshy edible part of the seed.
Although coconut meat contains less fat
other dry nuts, such as almonds
, it is noted
for its high amount of medium-chain saturated fat
. About 90% of the fat found in
coconut meat is saturated, a proportion exceeding that of foods
such as lard
. However, there has been some debate
as to whether or not the saturated fat in coconuts is healthier
than the saturated fat found in other foods (see coconut oil
information). Coconut meat also contains less sugar
and more protein
popular fruits such as bananas, apples and oranges, and it is
relatively high in minerals
The endosperm surrounds a hollow interior space, filled with air
and often a liquid referred to as coconut
, not to be confused with coconut
. Coconut milk, called "santan" in Malay
and "katas ngungut" in Kapampangan
, is made by grating the
and mixing it with warm water.
The resulting thick, white liquid is used in much Asian cooking,
for example, in curries
. Coconut water
from the unripe coconut can be
drunk fresh. Young coconuts used for coconut water
are called tender coconuts. When
the coconut is still green, the endosperm inside is thin and
tender, and is often eaten as a snack. But the main reason to pick
the fruit at this stage is to drink its water. The water of a
tender coconut is liquid endosperm. It is sweet (mild) with an
aerated feel when cut fresh. Depending on the size, a tender
coconut could contain the liquid in the range of 300 to 1,000
The meat in a young coconut is softer and more gelatinous than a
mature coconut, so much so, that it is sometimes known as coconut
jelly. When the coconut has ripened and the outer husk has turned
brown, a few months later, it will fall from the palm of its own
accord. At that time the endosperm has thickened and hardened,
while the coconut water has become somewhat bitter.
When the coconut fruit is still green, the husk is very hard, but
green coconuts only fall if they have been attacked by molds, etc.
By the time the coconut naturally falls, the husk has become brown,
the coir has become drier and softer, and the coconut is less
likely to cause damage when it drops. Still, there have been
instances of coconuts falling from palms and injuring people, and
claims of some fatalities. This was the subject of a paper
published in 1984 that won the Ig Nobel
in 2001. Falling coconut deaths are often used as a
comparison to shark attacks; the claim is often made that a person
is more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than by a shark,
yet, there is no evidence of people ever being killed in this
When viewed on end, the endocarp and germination pores give the
fruit the appearance of a coco
(also Côca), a Portuguese
word for a scary witch from Portuguese folklore, that used to be
represented as a carved vegetable lantern, hence the name of the
fruit. The specific name nucifera
is Latin for
A small number of writings about coconut mention the existence of
the coconut pearl
due to the rarity of
the gem. Reginald mentions in his book a few publishings whose
author purposely avoided discussion about the vegetable-gem.
In Thailand, the coconut husk is used as a potting medium because
of its cost-effectiveness to produce healthy forest tree saplings.
The process of husk extraction from the coir bypasses the retting
process, using a custom-built coconut husk extractor designed by
ASEAN-Canada Forest Tree Seed Centre (ACFTSC) in 1986. Fresh husks
contains more tannin
than old husks. Tannin
produces negative effects on sapling growth.
In India, the coconut husk is used extensively in the manufacture
of coir, which is subsequently used in the production of rope, as
well as household products like door mats and sacks.
In India, coconut shells are used as bowls and in the manufacture
of various crafts products. In certain parts of South India, the
shell and husk also are burned for smoke to repel mosquitoes.
Coconut shell is sometimes used to 'ward away the evil eye' in
The shell composition is shown in the tables below.
|Coconut shell compound(dry basis)
|Source: Jasper Guy Woodroof
(1979). "Coconuts: Production, Processing, Products". 2nd ed. AVI
Publishing Co. Inc.
|Coconut shell ash compound
|Fe2O3 + Al2O3
|Source: Jasper Guy Woodroof
(1979). "Coconuts: Production, Processing, Products". 2nd ed. AVI
Publishing Co. Inc.
Unlike some other plants
, the palm tree
has neither tap
nor root hairs
; but has a
fibrous root system
On the same inflorescence
, the palm
produces both the female and male flowers; thus the palm is
Coconut Flower and Kerala Marriage
- In Kerala in South India, coconut flowers must be present
during a marriage ceremony.
- The flowers are inserted into a barrel of unhusked rice (paddy)
and placed within the sight of the wedding ceremony.
- Those who visit the marriage in the Kerala State will be able
to see and understand the importance given to the Coconut
Various Uses of Coconut
Importance of Coconut Trees and its Economic Value
- Nearly all parts of the coconut palm are useful.
- The palms have a comparatively high yield, up to 75 fruits per
year ; it therefore has significant economic value.
- The name for the coconut palm in Sanskrit is kalpa vriksha, which
translates as "the tree which provides all the necessities of
- In Malay, the coconut is known as
pokok seribu guna, "the tree of a thousand uses".
the Philippines, the coconut is commonly given the title "Tree of Life".
Culinary uses of the various parts of the palm include:
- The nut provides oil for cooking and making margarine.
- The white, fleshy part of the seed, the coconut meat, is edible
and used fresh or dried in cooking.
Coconut Water and Coconut Milk
A relatively young tender-coconut with
a straw, to drink the coconut water.
- The cavity is filled with coconut water which contains sugar,
fiber, proteins, antioxidants,
vitamins and minerals. Coconut water provides an isotonic electrolyte balance, and is a highly nutritious
food source. It is used as a refreshing drink throughout the humid
tropics, and is also used in isotonic sports drinks. It can also be
used to make the gelatinous dessert nata de
coco. Mature fruits have significantly less liquid than young
immature coconuts; barring spoilage, coconut water is sterile until
- Coconut milk is made by processing grated coconut with hot
water or milk, which extracts the oil and aromatic compounds. It
should not be confused with coconut water, and has a fat content
around 17%. When refrigerated and left to set, coconut cream will rise to the top and
separate from the milk. The milk is used to produce virgin coconut
oil by controlled heating and removing the oil fraction. Virgin
coconut oil is found superior to the oil extracted from copra for
- The leftover fiber from coconut milk production is used as
'Toddy' and Nectar
Palm Wine --- 'Toddy'
Coconut Nectar at Maldives
- The sap derived from incising the flower clusters of the
coconut is drunk as neera, or fermented to
produce palm wine, also known as "toddy"
or, in the Philippines, tuba. The sap can be reduced by
boiling to create a sweet syrup or candy, too.
- Coconut nectar is an extract from the young
bud, a very rare type of nectar collected and used as morning break
drink in the islands of Maldives, and is reputed to have energetic power, keeping
the "raamen" (nectar collector) healthy and fit even over 80 or 90
years old. A by-product, a sweet honey-like syrup called
dhiyaa hakuru is used as a creamy sugar for desserts.
"Millionaire's Salad" and Coconut Sprout
- Apical buds of adult plants are
edible, and are known as "palm-cabbage" or heart-of-palm. They are considered a rare
delicacy, as the act of harvesting the buds kills the palms. Hearts
of palm are eaten in salads, sometimes called "millionaire's
- Newly germinated coconuts contain an edible fluff of
marshmallow-like consistency called coconut sprout, produced as the
endosperm nourishes the developing embryo.
Usage of Coconut in Philippines and Vietnam
- In the Philippines, rice is wrapped in coco leaves for cooking
and subsequent storage; these packets are called puso.
Vietnam, coconut is grown majorly in Ben Tre
Province- dubbed the "land of coconut", and used to make
candy, caramel and jelly.
- Coconut juice and coconut milk are also used in many dishes
especially in Vietnam's Southern style of cooking ie kho, chè, etc..
Coconut usage in India
A mature coconut's interior after
breaking the coconut
South Indian dish --- Idli and Coconut
Coconut usage at Kerala, in India
- In Kerala, most dishes include coconut. The most common way of
cooking vegetables is to scrape coconut and then steam the
vegetables with coconut and spices after frying in a little oil.
Dishes that include scraped coconut are generally referred to as
"thoran", while dishes without scraped coconut belong to the class
- People from Kerala also make a wide variety of "chamandis"
which involve grinding the coconut meat with salt, chillies, and
various whole spices. The "chamandi" can then be eaten with rice or
kanji (rice gruel).
- The coconut meat is also used as a snack and is eaten with
jaggery or molasses.
- "Puttu" is a culinary delicacy from Kerala, in which layers of
coconut alternate with layers of powdered rice, all of which fit
into a steel or aluminium tube, which is then steamed over a steel
or aluminium pot.
Coconut usage at Tamil Nadu, in India
- Daily at least one coconut "tamil:தேங்காய்" is broken in the
middle class families in Tamil Nadu for using in their food
- Invariably while preparing the Idle, Vada, Dosa, the main side
dish will be coconut chutney.
- While preparing sambar, and other dishes for lunch time, to
increase the taste of the item, the coconut is mixed and ground
along with other spices.
Other Details about Coconut
- Sport fruit are also harvested,
primarily in the Philippines, where they are known as
macapuno. They are sold in jars as "gelatinous mutant
coconut" cut into balls or strands.
- The smell of coconuts comes from the 6-pentyloxan-2-one
molecule, known as delta-decalactone in the food and fragrance
Industrial and Commercial usage of Coconut
Coir (the fiber from the husk of the coconut)
Rural women processing coir threads at
- Coir (the fiber from the husk of the
coconut) is used in ropes, mats, brushes, caulking boats and as
stuffing fiber; it is also used extensively in horticulture for making potting compost.
- Coir is used for making mattresses at Kerala, in India.
Coir Industry in Tamil Nadu, India
- Tamil Nadu stands first in the manufacture of brown fibre, and
is second to Kerala in the fibre production in India. The total
number of coir industries in Tamil Nadu is 5,399; employing 52,648
directly and 20,192 indirectly, of whom 52,810 are women and 20,030
- Coconut leaves are used for making brooms in India.
- The leaves provide materials for baskets and roofing
- The leaves can be woven to create effective roofing materials,
or reed mats.
- Leaves were woven together into a basket that could be used for
drawing water from a well.
- Dried coconut leaves can be burned to ash, which can be
harvested for lime.
- The stiff leaflet midribs can be used to make cooking skewers,
kindling arrows, or are bound into bundles, brooms and
- The mid-rib of the coconut leaf is used as a tongue-cleaner in
Kerala.(I believe mainly woman did this)
- In India, particularly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the woven
coconut leaves are used as 'pandals' (temporary sheds) for the
Coconuts sundried for making copra,
used for coconut oil at Kerala, India
A wall made from coconut husks
Extracting the fiber from the husk
- Copra is the dried meat of the seed and, after further
processing, is a source of low grade coconut oil.
- Coconut oils are used to make soap.
Husk and Shells
- The husk and shells can be used for fuel and are a good source
- Dried half coconut shells with husks are used to buff floors.
In the Philippines, it is known as "bunot", and in Jamaica it is
simply called "coconut brush"
- Activated carbon manufactured from coconut shell is considered
superior to those obtained from other sources, mainly because of
small macropores structure which renders it more effective for the
adsorption of gas/vapor and for the removal of color, oxidants,
impurities and odor of compounds.
- Half coconut shells are used in theatre
Foley sound effects work, banged
together to create the sound effect of a horse's hoofbeats.
- In the Philippines, dried half shells are used as a music
instrument in a folk dance called maglalatik, a
traditional dance about the conflicts for coconut meat within the
- Shirt buttons can be carved out of dried coconut shell. Coconut
buttons are often used for Hawaiian Aloha
- Dried half coconut shells are used as the bodies of musical
instruments, including the Chinese yehu and
banhu, along with the Vietnamese đàn gáo and Arabo-Turkic rebab.
World War II, coastwatcher scout Biuki
Gasa was the first of two from the Solomon Islands to reach the shipwrecked, wounded, and exhausted
crew of Motor Torpedo Boat
PT-109 commanded by future U.S. president John F. Kennedy. Gasa suggested, for
lack of paper, delivering by dugout canoe a message inscribed on a
husked coconut shell. This coconut was later kept on the
president's desk, and is now in the John F.
- Coconut trunks are used for building small bridges; they are
preferred for their straightness, strength and salt resistance. In
Kerala (India), coconut trunks are also used for house
- Palmwood comes from the trunk, and is
increasingly being used as an ecologically-sound substitute for
endangered hardwoods. It has several applications, particularly in
furniture and specialized construction
(notably in Manila's Coconut
- Hawaiians hollowed the trunk to form drums, containers, or even
- The "branches" (leaf petioles) are strong and flexible enough
to make a switch. The use of coconut
branches in corporal punishment was revived in the Gilbertese
community on Choiseul in the Solomon Islands in 2005.
Coconut used for Worship
- A coconut ( ) is an essential element of several rituals in Hindu tradition, and
often is decorated with bright metal foils and other symbols of
- It is offered during worship to a Hindu god or goddess.
Irrespective of their religious affiliation, fishermen of India
often offer it to the rivers and seas in the hopes of having
- In Hindu wedding ceremonies, a coconut is placed over the
opening of a pot, representing a womb.
- Hindus often initiate the beginning of any new activity by
breaking a coconut to ensure the blessings of the gods and
successful completion of the activity.
- The Hindu goddess of well-being and wealth, Lakshmi, is often shown holding a coconut.
- The coconut holds a very important role in the day to day life
of Indians. In particular at South India, for all the functions,
where ever there is any kind of prayer take place, there, the
Hindus, keep the coconut and banana, along with other 'Pooja'
materials, and break open the coconut and after that only any kind
of Pooja / prayers / activities will be started.
the Temple Town Palani, before
going for the worship of God Murugan, at the
foot hills of Palani
Hills, for the Ganesha, a coconut will be broken at the
place where it is marked for that purpose. Every day,
thousands of coconuts are broken, and some devotees break even 108
coconuts at a time as per the prayer.
- In tantric practices, coconuts are
sometimes used as substitutes for human skulls.
Making a rug from coconut fiber
Coconut Trees in Goa, India
Zulu Social Aid and
Pleasure Club of New
Orleans traditionally throws hand decorated coconuts—the
most valuable of all Mardi Gras souvenirs—to parade
revelers. The "Tramps" began the tradition ca. 1901. In
1987, a "coconut law" was signed by Gov. Edwards
exempting from insurance liability any decorated coconut
handed from a Zulu float.
Other usages of the parts of Coconut
Home for Birds
- A coconut can be hollowed out and used as a home for a rodent
or small bird. Halved, drained coconuts can also be hung up as bird
feeders, and after the flesh has gone, can be filled with fat in
winter to attract tits.
- Coconut is also commonly used as a
traditional remedy in Pakistan to treat bites from rats.
- The dried calyx of the coconut is used as fuel in wood fired
- The fresh husk of a brown coconut is also used as a dish sponge
or as a body sponge.
- The inners are removed and the cases used to display food, such
as fruit, for gifts in traditional rituals.