Coconut Palm Tree Information

Overview

The coconut palm tree (Cocos nucifera linn) belongs to the Arecaceae family and, according to University of Florida, is probably a native of the Malay Archipelago or the South Pacific. The coconut palm is generally found on and near sandy shorelines. Spread both by humans and by water, the fruit floats and will germinate when it reaches land again.

Commercial Uses

The fruit of the coconut palm produces Copra, which is the source of coconut oil. The coconut oil is used for cosmetics, cooking oil, shampoo and margarine. The fruit is also used for food. The water inside green coconuts is used to make coco frio, a popular drink in Florida.

Description

The coconut palm has a single trunk that is light gray. At the top of the trunk is a crown of leaves. The coconut palm can grow to a height of 100 feet. In most cultivars, the trunk is curved or leans, though there are some cultivars that produce straight trunks. The leaves grow up to 18 feet long and 4 feet wide, and are feather-shaped. The spineless leaf stalks grow up to 5 feet in length.

Flowers and Fruit

The male and female flowers grow on the same stem, and might have up to 50 branchlets. The light yellow male flowers are small and grow on the ends of the branchlets. The light yellow female flowers grow near the base of the branchlet. The coconut palm starts to flower after approximately five years. The fruit grows to about 15 inches long and 12 inches wide. It has a thick husk that surrounds a nut. The nut has a hard, brittle shell that is hairy. The nut itself is about 8 inches wide and about 12 inches long. The fleshy layer contained within the shell is white and about an inch thick when the fruit is mature. The center is hollow and contains coconut milk. There is more coconut milk in unripe coconuts, and the flesh is soft. The coconut palm produces fruit in 6 to 10 years after germination. It does not reach full production until the tree is 15 to 20 years old, and will produce fruit until it is about 80 years old.

Propagation

The coconut palm is propagated via its seed. When the coconuts are ready to be planted, you can hear sloshing inside. Dig a planting hole that is half as deep as the height of the nut when lying on its side. Bury the nut with sand or compost. The nut needs high temperatures to germinate-the lowest that a nut will properly germinate is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The nuts can be germinated in pots, then transplanted when the seedlings are six months old.

Stresses

Though the coconut is drought-tolerant, you should water the tree during dry spells to encourage the best fruit production. The tree is also flood-resistant, but should not be allowed to remain in poorly-drained soil for more than a few days, as prolonged exposure to waterlogged soil causes the tree to do poorly, and even die. Keep the coconut palms in an area where the temperature does not drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, as the foliage becomes damaged. Severe freezes damage the buds.

Keywords: coconut palm, coconut milk, palm tree

About this Author

Cayden Conor is a family law paralegal who writes on various subjects including dogs, cockatoos and cooking. She has over 15 years of experience as a paralegal, and has been writing professionally for three years. Conor has a paralegal degree and majored in criminology, computer science (programming emphasis) and education.