Cocos nucifera

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Cocos (KOH-kohs)
nucifera (noo-SIFF-ehr-ah)
Coco twist.jpg
Old and twisted.
Scientific Classification
Genus: Cocos (KOH-kohs)
nucifera (noo-SIFF-ehr-ah)
None set.
Native Continent
Habit: Solitary
Leaf type: Pinnate
Height: 90 ft/27 m
Trunk diameter: 1 ft/30 cm
Sun exposure: Full Sun
Watering: Moderate
Soil type: Sandy
Survivability index
Common names
Coconut Palm

Habitat and Distribution

Cocos nucifera has been cultivated and utilized for so long in virtually every tropical
Kona, Hawaii.
location throughout the world, that its true place of origin is somewhat uncertain. The most widely accepted location is southern Asia east to the islands of the central Pacific Ocean. It was introduced to the west coast of northern South America from the Philippines about 2,250 years ago by Austronesian people.


The Coconut Palm is a large palm, growing to 30 m tall. It has pinnate leaves 4–6 m long, the leaflets 60–90 cm long; old leaves break away cleanly, leaving the trunk smooth. Despite its solo status in this monotypic genus, it has countless variations, but is always easily identified by everyone the world over as the Coconut Palm. Propagation is by seed (the fruit).

Canopy palm. Stem solitary, erect, 25-40 cm in diameter. Leaves numerous, 3-6 m long; pinnae to 100 on each side, regularly inserted in one plane, straight, the central ones to 1 m long and 5 cm wide. Inflorescences 60-100 m long, once branched, overhung by a large, boat shaped, persistent peduncular bract; the basal part of each inflorescence branch with a few large female flowers, these yellow or greenish, 3-5 cm long; the distal part of the branches with numerous cream coloured male flowers, these 5-8 mm long. Fruits rounded to triangular, green or yellow, 20-30 cm long. (Borchsenius, F. 1998)/Palmweb. Editing by edric.


Like all coconut variety's, it can only be grown in areas where temperatures above 40 degrees F. are maintained, this genus stops producing Chlorophyll below that temperature.

While truly tropical in nature, the Coconut has been tried and coddled in many climates due to its popularity and availablity. Many tales, bordering on folklore, exist as to the extent its accepted boundaries have been pushed. While some of these are true, and a few Coconut Palms exist outside of the tropics, it has proven to be more a "labor of love" than a "claim to fame".

At the fringe level of range, the northernmost reported Coconut Palm is at the Palermo Botanical Gardens (Orto Botanico di Palermo) in Sicily, southern Italy, at 38° 06' N. In North America, the northernmost is the "California Coconut" at Newport Beach, California, planted in the early 1980s at latitude 33° 37' N. While stunted, it survives through winter and has launched many Californians and others to try to extend the range more dramatically. Other places with potential for cultivation in the subtropical Northern Hemisphere in Europe include the Azores, Madeira, Malta, Crete in southern Greece, and southernmost Spain, and in North America, Florida at St. Augustine (just under 30° N), southern Texas to around 27°N. In South Florida Coconut Palms become ubiquitous from approximately 27°N to the Florida Keys, particularly on the Gulf and Atlantic Coast.

In the Southern Hemisphere, documented Coconut Palms exist at Port Elizabeth, South Africa at 33° 57' S, and in Perth, Australia at around 32° S. Additionally, stunted Coconut Palms have been observed in northern New Zealand, which were growing naturally, at 35° S.

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Comments and Curiosities

This is a monotypic genus, despite all of its variations.

Few plants on Earth can claim to have assisted mankind more during its early development. Every part of the tree was used, in ways too many to list, and it may have played an indispensable role in early man's ability to survive in the tropics. Because the seeds can float for long distances in ocean waters, and sprout with rapid growth in sterile sand on salty shores, it was present in the large numbers necessary to provide the basics for human existence on otherwise semi-barren islands.

External Links


Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.

Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.

Special thanks to, Dr. John Dransfield, Dr. Bill Baker & team, for their volumes of information and photos.

Glossary of Palm Terms; Based on the glossary in Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen-Lange, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley & C.E. Lewis. 2008. Genera Palmarum - Evolution and Classification of the Palms. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. All images copyright of the artists and photographers (see images for credits).

Borchsenius, F.1998. Manual to the palms of Ecuador. AAU Reports 37. Department of Systematic Botany, University of Aarhus, Denmark in collaboration with Pontificia Universidad Catalica del Ecuador.

Many Special Thanks to Ed Vaile for his long hours of tireless editing and numerous contributions.

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