| Cocos (KOH-kohs)
Old and twisted.
Habitat and DistributionCocos nucifera has been cultivated and utilized for so long in virtually every tropical
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.
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.
Probably the most well known and most popular of all palms, the coconut palm hardly needs an introduction. It is believed to originate in the Southwest Pacific and Malesian region but of course is cultivated everywhere in the tropics today as an important agricultural crop and the ultimate palm for coastal areas: No other palm will withstand as much wind and saltspray, but it is essentially a tropical plant that will not survive much frost or prolonged cool. There are a good number of cultivars, from compact dwarf forms with short stems to tall, towering ones with their crowns high up in the sky. Germination of unhusked nuts is fairly easy but slow. If you live in the tropics, plant the nut sideways in its permanent position in the ground so that just less than half of it is still showing. Keep well watered. In a pot, plant the same way, cover with a clear plastic bag and keep moist, in a warm place out of the sun. Young coconuts need a place in full sun to develop well once the first leaves appear. (RPS.com)
"While on the topic of coconuts, I've got to bring up how great coconut oil is.. I use it a lot if cooking and baking.. the brand I get from trader joe's has great coconut flavor/fragrance and makes great baked goods. The properties of the oil also give it great cooking characteristics.. it leaves pan fried foods golden brown. Coconut oil is also supposed to be great for skin and hair, not to mention the potential heart healthy benefits! From my experience, It's a no brainer!" (Dr. Axel Kratel)
- Glossary of Palm Terms
- MODERN BOTANICAL LATIN
- "Just To Be Clear"
- Click on Arecaceae, for list of photos
- A very interesting detailed article on the HISTORY OF THE COCONUT
- Forest & Kim Starr
Phonetic spelling of Latin names by edric.
Special thanks to Geoff Stein, (Palmbob) for his hundreds of photos.
Special thanks to Palmweb.org, 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.