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Cocos nucifera

Common names(See "Notes" for hybrid names), côco, coconut, cocotero, cocotier, coir fibre, kalpaviriksha, kokospalme, kulau, narial, natures supermarket, palma de coco, thengai, tree of abundance, tree of heaven, tree of life, ye
Ecocrop code744

DESCRIPTION: The coconut is an evergreen palm, in strict botanical terms it is not a tree. It has no bark, branches, cambium or secondary growth. It is a woody, perennial monocotyledon and its trunk is a stem, which grows to about 25 m and exceptionally 30m; dwarf selections also exist. Being a monocotyledon the coconut has no taproot and adventitious roots develop continually from the bole. Roots may spread from the bole in any direction and at any angle below the horizontal for up to 10 m or more, depending on soil and water supply. The m ain roots are about 10mm in diameter with secondary and tertiary branches. When young they are coloured white to cream and have a very sharp tipped growing point below a loose root cap about 12mm long. There are no root hairs. The rate of elongation is not uniform and the root takes on a banded appearance as it matures and its colour darkens through shades of orange. When growth eventually ceases the root is brown with a tip that is rounded and blunt. The smallest branches are about 1-2mm in diameter and are short lived and frequently replaced. Where they occur at, or in wet conditions sometimes above, ground level the secondary and tertiary roots remain as very small, peg-like pneumatophores, or "breathing roots". It has a smooth, columnar, light grey-brown trunk, with a mean diameter of 30-40 cm at breast height, and topped with a terminal crown of leaves. Trunk slender and slightly swollen at the base, usually erect but may be leaning or curved and marked with leaf scars.. Leaves pinnate, polymorphic, feather shaped, 4-7m long and 1-1.5 m wide at the broadest part. Leaf stalks 1-2 cm in length and thornless. The inflorescence consists of female and male axillary flowers. Flowers small, light yellow, in clusters that emerge from canoe-shaped sheaths among the leaves. Male flowers small and more numerous. Female flowers fewer and occasionally completely absent; larger, spherical structures, about 25 mm in diameter. Fruit roughly ovoid, up to 15-25 cm long and composed of a thick, fibrous husk surrounding a somewhat spherical nut with a hard, brittle, hairy shell. The nut is 2-2.5 cm in diameter and 3-4 cm long. Three sunken holes of softer tissue, called ?eyes?, are at one end of the nut. Inside the shell is a thin, white, fleshy layer known as the ?meat?. The interior of the nut is hollow but partially filled with a watery liquid called ?coconut milk?. The meat is soft and jellylike when immature but becomes firm with maturity. Coconut milk is abundant in unripe fruit but is gradually absorbed as ripening proceeds. The fruits are green at first, turning brownish as they mature; yellow varieties go from yellow to brown. USES: Food: Copra, the dried coconut endosperm, contains an edible cooking oil (coconut oil). The apical region of C. nucifera (?millionaire salad?) is a food delicacy in areas where it is grown. Other food derivatives of coconut include coconut chips, coconut jam, coconut honey, coconut candy and other desserts. Fodder: Copra meal and coconut cake, the residues of oil extraction from copra containing approximately 20% protein, 45% carbohydrate, 11% fibre, fat, minerals and moisture, are used in cattle feed rations. Apiculture: C. nucifera is an important pollen source for honey production. Where sap is tapped from unopened inflorescences for toddy-making, many bees drain in the collecting pots. The honey may be greenish-yellow like the motor oil and crystal clear if monofloral. Granulation is medium (takes up to 3 months). Fuel: The high moisture content of C. nucifera wood and the difficulty of splitting it has made it relatively unpopular as firewood. Coconut shell charcoal is a major source of domestic fuel in the Philippines. It is also exported to Japan and the USA. Coconut oil can be used as a substitute for diesel oils, for electric generating plants and motor vehicles. Fibre: Three types of fibres are obtained from the coconut husks: mat fibre or yarn fibre, used in making mats; bristle fibre, used for brush making; and mattress fibre, used in stuffing mattresses and in upholstery. Leaflets are used in braiding mats, baskets and hats. Timber: C. nucifera timber has traditionally been used in tropical countries for the structural framework of houses. Coconut timber taken from the lower and middle parts of the trunk can be used for load-bearing structures in buildings, such as frames, floors and trusses. Coconut trunks can be used for poles, as they have great strength and flexibility. The wood can also be used for furniture and parquet flooring. Lipids: The oil contains fatty alcohol and glycerine used in soaps, detergents, shampoos cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and explosives. Alcohol: Sap from the tender, unopened inflorescence (coconut palm sap) is used in the producing areas for toddy, or tuba, a beverage obtained by natural fermentation. Tuba contains 6-7.5% alcohol. The distillation of fermented coconut toddy yields a spirit called arrack, produced commercially in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Other products: Coconut-shell flour, obtained from grinding clean, mature coconut shells to fine powder, is used as a filler in thermoplastic industry and an abrasive for cleaning machinery. Coconut-shell charcoal may be processed further into activated carbon that has many industrial applications, including general water purification, crystalline sugar preparation and gold purification. The edible mushrooms of the genus Auricularis grow well on coconut stems and are readily sold in China and elsewhere. Soil improver: Burnt husks form a useful sort of potash that is used to fertilize the trees. The husks also make valuable mulch for moisture conservation in the dry season and help to suppress weeds. Ornamental: Planted widely as an ornamental tree. Intercropping: Coconut palm is one of the most widely grown tree crops in the tropical countries. Its growth characteristics are ideal for small production and also for combining with other crops. The crown morphology and the relatively wide spacing facilitate the planting of a wide spectrum of field crops in coconut plantations. It has therefore been intercropped with cereals (cassava, sweet potatoes, yams) or fruits (bananas, passion fruit, pineapples and ground nuts) in many countries including Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines etc. KILLING T.: Will withstand a small amount of frost. The lowest temperatures tolerated for long periods are for palm 10°C, for leaves 15°C, and for flowers 20°C. GROWING PERIOD: Perennial. Flowering begins at 5-7 years, (dwarf varieties 3.5-4.5 years). The palm reaches full bearing after 10-12 years, maturity at about 15 years and lives up to between 60 and 100 years in the wild state, and 50-70 years under cultivation. There is a 360-365 day yield cycle. The inflorescence is initiated 16 months before the spathe opens and the nut takes about a year to mature from the time of pollination. COMMON NAMES: Coconut, Cocotier, Cocotero, Kokospalme, Palma de coco, Cocotero, Cocoteros, Narel, Nariyal, Narikel, Narela, Thenpinna, Tengina, Tenkaya, Narikadam, Tennai, Tenkai, On, Coqueiro, Niog, Niyog, Giragara, Lobi, Lubi, Ngotngot, Ongot, Palmera de coco, Coco, Coco de agua, Noix de coco, Cocotier, Cocos, Cocospalm, Klapperboom, Coco de Bahia, Coqueiro de Bahia, Coco de India. Please see notes in the EcoPort link for hybrid names. FURTHER INF.: The coconut palm probably originated from the Melanesian region. It is generally grown within 26°N and S and the most suitable climates are found between 10°N and S. For good yields coconut requires small temperature differences between day and night, because of this it is normally grown no higher than 700-950 m above sea level even at the equator. It can though be found up to 1500 m in a few areas near the equator. Areas where drainage is poor are not satisfactory unless the water rises and falls frequently, as is the case near a tidal estuary. The photosynthesis pathway is C 3. Normally 84-97% relative humidity is required for good production, 63% is about the minimum for production and the monthly mean should not fall below 60%. It is popularly known as ?Tree of Life?, ?Tree of Heaven?, ?Kalpaviriksha?, ?Tree of Abundance?, ?Natures? Supermarket? and is grown in more than 93 countries in an area of 11.85 million ha with production of 10.39 million tonnes of copra equivalent. It sustains millions of small holders for their livelihood. It also supports large number of coconut-based industries and thereby the millions of labourers, both men and women are solely depending on this crop. It is associated socially, culturally and religiously in many parts of the world. Coconut and its products including coconut oil is consumed in more than 120 countries.
Modern Coconut Management J.G. Ohler and FAO
ICRAF Agroforestry Database
Purdue NewCROP
Sims D (pers. comm.)
Rehm S 1991 pp 86-94 [TEMP, RAIN, LIG, DRA, DEP]
Rice R 1990 pp 73-78 [RAIN, DRA, SAL, TEXT, PH]
Landon J 1984 pp 281 [TEXT, DRA, DEP, PH, FER, SAL]
Roecklein J 1987 pp 339 [USE]
Eswaran H 1986
Kozlowski T 1977 pp 386
Williams C 1979 pp 157-166 [RAIN, TEXT, DRA, FER, PH]
Williams C 1979a pp 188-197 [RAIN, LIG, TEXT, PH, FER, DRA]
Hackett C 1982 pp 154 [FER, PHO, DEP, PH, TEXT, TEMP]
Kernick M 1961 pp 384
Troup R 1921 pp 970
Hoyos F J 1984 pp 50
Voortman R (pers. comm.)
Hensleigh T 1988 pp 116-122 [PH, TEXT, DRA, SAL, TEMP, RAIN, USE]
Martin F 1984 pp 72-78 [TEMP, RAIN, PHO, DRA, FER, DEP, TEXT, PH, SAL, LIG, USE]
Wickens G 1995 pp 39-42 [USE, SAL, DRA, FER]