The coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) is a member of the family Arecaceae
(palm family) and the only species of the genus Cocos. The term
coconut can refer to the whole coconut palm or the seed, or the fruit,
which, botanically, is a drupe, not a nut. The spelling cocoanut is an
archaic form of the word. The term is derived from the 16th-century
Portuguese and Spanish word coco meaning "head" or "skull", from the
three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble facial
Coconuts are known for their versatility ranging from food to
cosmetics. They form a regular part of the diets of many people in
the tropics and subtropics. Coconuts are distinct from other fruits
for their endosperm containing a large quantity of water (also
called "milk"), and when immature, may be harvested for the potable
coconut water. When mature, they can be used as seed nuts or processed
for oil, charcoal from the hard shell, and coir from the fibrous husk.
When dried, the coconut flesh is called copra. The oil and milk
derived from it are commonly used in cooking and frying, as well as in
soaps and cosmetics. The husks and leaves can be used as material to
make a variety of products for furnishing and decorating. The coconut
also has cultural and religious significance in certain societies,
particularly in India, where it is used in
5 Natural habitat
6 Production and cultivation
6.5 Middle East
6.6 United States
6.9 Substitutes for cooler climates
7.2.4 Toddy and nectar
Heart of palm
Heart of palm and coconut sprout
7.7 Commercial, industrial, and household use
7.7.5 Husks and shells
7.7.8 Beauty products
7.8.1 Myths and legends
7.9 Other uses
7.9.1 Tool and shelter for animals
8.1 Food allergies
8.2 Topical allergies
11 Further reading
12 External links
The name coconut derives from seafarers during the 16th and 17th
century for its resemblance to a head. 'Coco' and 'coconut'
apparently came from 1521 encounters by Portuguese and Spanish
explorers with Pacific islanders, with the coconut shell reminding
them of a ghost or witch in Portuguese folklore called coco (also
The specific name nucifera is
Latin for "nut-bearing".
Fossil Cocos zeylanica from the
Miocene of New Zealand, 4 cm
(1 1⁄2 in) long.
One of the earliest mentions of the coconut dates back to the "One
Thousand and One Nights" story of Sinbad the Sailor; he is known to
have bought and sold coconut during his fifth voyage. Thenga, its
Malayalam and Tamil name, was used in the detailed description of
coconut found in
Ludovico di Varthema
Ludovico di Varthema published in 1510
and also in the later Hortus Indicus Malabaricus. Even earlier, it
was called nux indica, a name used by
Marco Polo in 1280 while in
Sumatra, taken from the Arabs who called it jawz hindī, translating
to "Indian nut". In the earliest description of the coconut palm
known, given by Cosmos of Alexandria in his Topographia Christiana
written around 545, there is a reference to the argell tree and its
In March 1521, a description of the coconut was given by Antonio
Pigafetta writing in Italian and using the words "cocho"/"cochi", as
recorded in his journal after the first European crossing of the
Pacific Ocean during the Magellan circumnavigation and meeting the
inhabitants of what would become known as
Guam and the Philippines. He
explained how at
Guam "they eat coconuts" ("mangiano cochi") and that
the natives there also "anoint the body and the hair with coconut and
beniseed oil" ("ongieno el corpo et li capili co oleo de cocho et de
The range of the natural habitat of the coconut palm tree delineated
by the red line (based on information in Werth (1933), slightly
modified by Niklas Jonsson)
The origin of the plant is, after many decades, still the subject of
debate. It has generally been accepted that the coconut
originated in the India–
Indonesia region and float-distributed
itself around the world by riding ocean currents. The
similarities of the local names in the Malaysia–
Indonesia region is
also cited as evidence that the plant originated in the region. For
example, the Polynesian and Melanesian term niu and the Tagalog and
Chamorro term niyog is said to be based on the Malay word nyiur or
O. F. Cook was one of the earliest modern researchers to draw
conclusions about the location of origin of Cocos nucifera based on
its current-day worldwide distribution. He hypothesized that
the coconut originated in the Americas, based on his belief that
American coconut populations predated European contact and because he
considered pan-tropical distribution by ocean currents improbable.
Thor Heyerdahl later used this as one part of his hypothesis to
support his theory that the
Pacific Islanders originated as two
migration streams from the Canadian Pacific coast (themselves recent
migrants from Asia) to Hawaii, and on to
New Zealand in a
series of hops, and another migration from South America via sailing
However, the conventional scientific opinion supports an Indo-Pacific
origin either around
Malaysia or the Indian
The oldest fossils known of the modern coconut dating from the Eocene
period from around 55 million to 37 million years ago were
found in Australia and India, but older palm fossils such as some
of nipa fruit have been found in the Americas. A species with
strawberry-sized nuts (Cocos zeylanica) lived in
New Zealand in the
Miocene. Since 1978, the work on tracing the probable origin and
dispersal of Cocos nucifera has only recently been augmented by a
publication on the germination rate of the coconut seednut  and
another on the importance of the coral atoll ecosystem. Briefly,
the coconut originated in the coral atoll ecosystem — without human
intervention — and required a thick husk and slow germination to
survive and disperse.
Cocos nucifera is a large palm, growing up to 30 m (98 ft)
tall, with pinnate leaves 4–6 m (13–20 ft) long, and
pinnae 60–90 cm (2–3 ft) long; old leaves break away
cleanly, leaving the trunk smooth. Coconuts are generally classified
into two general types: tall and dwarf. On fertile soil, a tall
coconut palm tree can yield up to 75 fruits per year, but more often
yields less than 30, mainly due to poor cultural
practices. Given proper care and growing conditions,
coconut palms produce their first fruit in six to ten years, taking 15
to 20 years to reach peak production.
Layers of a matured coconut
The endosperm is initially in its nuclear phase suspended within the
coconut water. As development continues, cellular layers of
endosperm deposit along the walls of the coconut, becoming the edible
coconut "flesh". Botanically, the coconut fruit is a drupe, not a true
nut. Like other fruits, it has three layers: the exocarp, mesocarp,
and endocarp. The exocarp and mesocarp make up the "husk" of the
coconuts. Coconuts sold in the shops of nontropical countries often
have had the exocarp (outermost layer) removed. The mesocarp is
composed of a fiber, called coir, which has many traditional and
commercial uses. The shell has three germination pores (micropyles) or
"eyes" that are clearly visible on its outside surface once the husk
A full-sized coconut weighs about 1.44 kg (3.2 lb). It takes
around 6,000 full-grown coconuts to produce one tonne of copra.
Unlike some other plants, the palm tree has neither a tap root nor
root hairs, but has a fibrous root system.
The coconut palm root system consists of an abundance of thin
roots that grow outward from the plant near the surface. Only a few of
the roots penetrate deep into the soil for stability. This type of
root system is known as fibrous or adventitious, and is a
characteristic of grass species. Other types of large trees produce a
single downward-growing tap root with a number of feeder roots growing
Coconut palms continue to produce roots from the base of the stem
throughout their lives. The number of roots produced depends on the
age of the tree and the environment, with more than 3,600 roots
possible on a tree that is 60 to 70 years old.
Roots are usually less than about 75 mm (3 inches) in diameter
and uniformly thick from the tree trunk to the root tip.
The palm produces both the female and male flowers on the same
inflorescence; thus, the palm is monoecious. Other sources use the
term polygamomonoecious. The female flower is much larger than the
male flower. Flowering occurs continuously.
Coconut palms are believed
to be largely cross-pollinated, although some[which?] dwarf varieties
Coconut plantation in India
Coconuts could not reach inland locations without human intervention
(to carry seednuts, plant seedlings, etc.) and early germination on
the palm (vivipary) was important, rather than increasing the
number or size of the edible parts of a fruit that was already large
enough. Human cultivation of the coconut selected, not for larger
size, but for thinner husks and increased volume of endosperm, the
solid “meat” or liquid “water” that provides the fruit its
food value. Although these modifications for domestication would
reduce the fruit’s ability to float, this ability would be
irrelevant to a cultivated population.
Among modern C. nucifera, two major types or variants occur: a
thick-husked, angular fruit and a thin-husked, spherical fruit with a
higher proportion of endosperm reflect a trend of cultivation in C.
nucifera. The first coconuts were of the niu kafa type, with thick
husks to protect the seed, an angular, highly ridged shape to promote
buoyancy during ocean dispersal, and a pointed base that allowed
fruits to dig into the sand, preventing them from being washed away
during germination on a new island. As early human communities began
to harvest coconuts for eating and planting, they (perhaps
unintentionally) selected for a larger endosperm-to-husk ratio and a
broader, spherical base, which rendered the fruit useful as a cup or
bowl, thus creating the niu vai type. The decreased buoyancy and
increased fragility of this spherical, thin-husked fruit would not
matter for a species that had started to be dispersed by humans and
grown in plantations. Harries’ adoption of the Polynesian terms niu
kafa and niu vai has now passed into general scientific discourse, and
his hypothesis is generally accepted.
Variants of C. nucifera are also categorized as tall (var. typica) or
dwarf (var. nana). The two groups are genetically distinct, with
the dwarf variety showing a greater degree of artificial selection for
ornamental traits and for early germination and fruiting. The
tall variety is outcrossing while dwarf palms are incrossing, which
has led to a much greater degree of genetic diversity within the tall
group. The dwarf subspecies is thought to have mutated from the tall
group under human selection pressure.
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Main article: Genomics of domestication
Coconut tree in
Kannur Beach, India
It is often stated that coconuts can travel 110 days, or 3,000 miles
(4,800 km), by sea and still be able to germinate. This
figure has been questioned based on the extremely small sample size
that forms the basis of the paper that makes this claim. Thor
Heyerdahl provides an alternative, and much shorter, estimate based on
his first-hand experience crossing the Pacific Ocean on the raft
"The nuts we had in baskets on deck remained edible and capable of
germinating the whole way to Polynesia. But we had laid about half
among the special provisions below deck, with the waves washing around
them. Every single one of these was ruined by the sea water. And no
coconut can float over the sea faster than a balsa raft moves with the
wind behind it."
He also notes that several of the nuts began to germinate by the time
they had been ten weeks at sea, precluding an unassisted journey of
100 days or more. However, the coconut variety Heyerdahl chose for his
long sea voyage likely was of the large, fleshy, spherical niu vai
type, which Harries observed to have a significantly shorter
germination type and worse buoyancy than the uncultivated niu kafa
type. Therefore, Heyerdahl’s observations cannot be considered
conclusive when it comes to determining the independent dispersal
ability of the uncultivated coconut.
Drift models based on wind and ocean currents have shown that coconuts
could not have drifted across the Pacific unaided. If they were
naturally distributed and had been in the Pacific for a thousand years
or so, then we would expect the eastern shore of Australia, with its
own islands sheltered by the Great Barrier Reef, to have been thick
with coconut palms: the currents were directly into, and down along
this coast. However, both
James Cook and William Bligh (put adrift
after the Bounty mutiny) found no sign of the nuts along this
2,000 km (1,200 mi) stretch when he needed water for his
crew. Nor were there coconuts on the east side of the African coast
until Vasco de Gama, nor in the Caribbean when first visited by
Christopher Columbus. We know from early Spanish documents that they
deliberately planted coconuts shortly after first contact,[citation
needed] and some nuts would certainly have self-seeded when they
floated ashore following shipwrecks. They were commonly carried by
Spanish ships as a source of sweet water.
Coconut germinating on Punaluʻu Beach on the island of Hawaiʻi.
This provides substantial circumstantial evidence that deliberate
voyagers were involved in carrying coconuts across the Pacific Ocean
(possibly the Austronesian peoples) and that they could not have
dispersed worldwide without human agency. More recently, genomic
analysis of cultivated coconut (C. nucifera L.) has shed light on the
movement. By examining 10 microsatellite loci, researchers found two
genetically distinct subpopulations of coconut—one originating in
the Indian Ocean, the other in the Pacific Ocean.
However, admixture, the transfer of genetic material, evidently
occurred between the two populations.
Given that coconuts are ideally suited for inter-island group ocean
dispersal, obviously some natural distribution did take place.
However, this should not be extrapolated to claims that one ocean's
subgenera possibly could have floated to interbreed with the
other. However, the locations of the admixture events
are limited to
Madagascar and coastal east Africa, and exclude the
Seychelles. This pattern coincides with the known trade routes of
Austronesian sailors. Additionally, a genetically distinct
subpopulation of coconut on the Pacific coast of
Latin America has
undergone a genetic bottleneck resulting from a founder
effect; however, its ancestral population is the
Pacific coconut. This, together with their use of the South American
sweet potato, suggests that
Austronesian peoples may have sailed as
far east as the Americas.
The coconut has spread across much of the tropics, probably aided in
many cases by seafaring people.
Coconut fruit in the wild are light,
buoyant, and highly water resistant. It is claimed that they evolved
to disperse significant distances via marine currents. However, it
can also be argued that the placement of the vulnerable eye of the nut
(down when floating), and the site of the coir cushion are better
positioned to ensure that the water-filled nut does not fracture when
dropping on rocky ground, rather than for flotation.
Specimens have been collected from the sea as far north as
it is not known where they entered the water). In the Hawaiian
Islands, the coconut is regarded as a Polynesian introduction, first
brought to the islands by early Polynesian voyagers from their
homelands in Oceania. They have been found in the Caribbean and
the Atlantic coasts of Africa and South America for less than 500
years (the Caribbean native inhabitants do not have a dialect term for
them, but use the Portuguese name), but evidence of their presence on
the Pacific coast of South America antedates Christopher Columbus's
arrival in the Americas. They are now almost ubiquitous between
26° N and 26° S except for the interiors of Africa and South
Coconut palm heavy with fruit
The coconut palm thrives on sandy soils and is highly tolerant of
salinity. It prefers areas with abundant sunlight and regular rainfall
(1,500–2,500 mm [59–98 in] annually), which makes
colonizing shorelines of the tropics relatively straightforward.
Coconuts also need high humidity (at least 70–80%) for optimum
growth, which is why they are rarely seen in areas with low humidity.
However, they can be found in humid areas with low annual
precipitation such as in Karachi, Pakistan, which receives only about
250 mm (9.8 in) of rainfall per year, but is consistently
warm and humid.
Coconut palms require warm conditions for successful growth, and are
intolerant of cold weather. Some seasonal variation is tolerated, with
good growth where mean summer temperatures are between 28 and
37 °C (82 and 99 °F), and survival as long as winter
temperatures are above 4–12 °C (39–54 °F); they will
survive brief drops to 0 °C (32 °F). Severe frost is
usually fatal, although they have been known to recover from
temperatures of −4 °C (25 °F). They may grow but not
fruit properly in areas with insufficient warmth, such as Bermuda.
The conditions required for coconut trees to grow without any care
Mean daily temperature above 12–13 °C (54–55 °F) every
day of the year
Mean annual rainfall above 1,000 mm (39 in)
No or very little overhead canopy, since even small trees require
The main limiting factor for most locations which satisfy the rainfall
and temperature requirements is canopy growth, except those locations
near coastlines, where the sandy soil and salt spray limit the growth
of most other trees.
Main article: List of coconut palm diseases
Coconuts are susceptible to the phytoplasma disease, lethal yellowing.
One recently selected cultivar, the 'Maypan', has been bred for
resistance to this disease. Yellowing diseases affect
plantations in Africa, India, Mexico, the Caribbean and the Pacific
The coconut palm is damaged by the larvae of many Lepidoptera
(butterfly and moth) species which feed on it, including the African
armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) and
Batrachedra spp.: B. arenosella, B.
atriloqua (feeds exclusively on C. nucifera), B. mathesoni (feeds
exclusively on C. nucifera), and B. nuciferae.
Brontispa longissima (coconut leaf beetle) feeds on young leaves, and
damages both seedlings and mature coconut palms. In 2007, the
Philippines imposed a quarantine in
Metro Manila and 26 provinces to
stop the spread of the pest and protect the Philippine coconut
industry managed by some 3.5 million farmers.
The fruit may also be damaged by eriophyid coconut mites (Eriophyes
guerreronis). This mite infests coconut plantations, and is
devastating; it can destroy up to 90% of coconut production. The
immature seeds are infested and desapped by larvae staying in the
portion covered by the perianth of the immature seed; the seeds then
drop off or survive deformed. Spraying with wettable sulfur 0.4% or
with Neem-based pesticides can give some relief, but is cumbersome and
In Kerala, India, the main coconut pests are the coconut mite, the
rhinoceros beetle, the red palm weevil, and the coconut leaf
caterpillar. Research into countermeasures to these pests has as of
2009[update] yielded no results; researchers from the Kerala
Agricultural University and the Central Plantation Crop Research
Institute, Kasaragode, continue to work on countermeasures. The Krishi
Kerala Agricultural University has
developed an innovative extension approach called the compact area
group approach to combat coconut mites.
Production and cultivation
Coconut production, 2014
(millions of tonnes)
Coconut palms are grown in more than 90 countries of the world, with a
total production of 61 million tonnes per year (table). Most
of the world production is in tropical Asia, with Indonesia, the
India accounting collectively for 73% of the world
Coconut trees are 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.
The extent of cultivation in the tropics is threatening a number of
habitats, such as mangroves; an example of such damage to an ecoregion
is in the Petenes mangroves of the Yucatán.
In some parts of the world (
Thailand and Malaysia), trained pig-tailed
macaques are used to harvest coconuts.
Thailand has been raising and
training pig-tailed macaques to pick coconuts for around
Training schools for pig-tailed macaques still exist both in southern
Thailand and in the Malaysian state of Kelantan.
Coconuts being sold on a street in India
Traditional areas of coconut cultivation in
India are the states of
Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Goa,
West Bengal and,
Gujarat and the islands of
Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar. As per 2014–15 statistics from
Coconut Development Board of Government of India, four southern states
combined account for almost 90% of the total production in the
Tamil Nadu (33.84%),
Kerala (23.96%), and
Andhra Pradesh (7.16%). Other states, such as Goa, Maharashtra,
Odisha, West Bengal, and those in the northeast (
Tripura and Assam)
account for the remaining productions. Though
Kerala has the largest
number of coconut trees, in terms of production per hectare, Tamil
Nadu leads all other states. In Tamil Nadu,
Coimbatore and Tirupur
regions top the production list.
In Goa, the coconut tree has been reclassified by the government as a
palm (like a grass), enabling farmers and real estate developers to
clear land with fewer restrictions. With this, it will no more be
considered as a tree and no permission will be required by the forest
department before cutting a coconut tree.
The coconut is the national tree of the
Maldives and is considered the
most important plant in the country. A coconut tree is also included
in the country's national emblem and coat of arms.
Coconut trees are
grown on all the islands. Before modern construction methods were
introduced, coconut leaves were used as roofing material for many
houses in the islands, while coconut timber was used to build houses
The main coconut-producing area in the Middle East is the Dhofar
region of Oman, but they can be grown all along the Persian Gulf,
Arabian Sea, and
Red Sea coasts, because these seas are tropical and
provide enough humidity (through seawater evaporation) for coconut
trees to grow. The young coconut plants need to be nursed and
irrigated with drip pipes until they are old enough (stem bulb
development) to be irrigated with brackish water or seawater alone,
after which they can be replanted on the beaches. In particular, the
Salalah maintains large coconut plantations similar to
those found across the
Arabian Sea in Kerala. The reasons why coconut
are cultivated only in Yemen's
Al Mahrah and
and in the Sultanate of Oman, but not in other suitable areas in the
Arabian Peninsula, may originate from the fact that
Oman and Hadramaut
had long dhow trade relations with Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, East
Africa, and Zanzibar, as well as southern
India and China. Omani
people needed the coir rope from the coconut fiber to stitch together
their traditional seagoing dhow vessels in which nails were never
used. The knowhow of coconut cultivation and necessary soil fixation
and irrigation may have found its way into Omani, Hadrami and Al-Mahra
culture by people who returned from those overseas areas.
Coconut trees line the beaches and corniches of Oman.
The coconut cultivars grown in
Oman are generally of the
drought-resistant Indian 'West Coast tall' variety. Unlike the UAE,
which grows mostly non-native dwarf or hybrid coconut cultivars
Florida for ornamental purposes, the slender, tall Omani
coconut cultivars are relatively well-adapted to the Middle East's hot
dry seasons, but need longer to reach maturity. The Middle East's hot,
dry climate favors the development of coconut mites, which cause
immature seed dropping and may cause brownish-gray discoloration on
the coconut's outer green fiber.
The ancient coconut groves of
Dhofar were mentioned by the medieval
Ibn Battuta in his writings, known as Al Rihla.
The annual rainy season known locally as khareef or monsoon makes
coconut cultivation easy on the Arabian east coast.
Coconut trees also are increasingly grown for decorative purposes
along the coasts of the
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates and
Saudi Arabia with the
help of irrigation. The
UAE has, however, imposed strict laws on
mature coconut tree imports from other countries to reduce the spread
of pests to other native palm trees, as the mixing of date and coconut
trees poses a risk of cross-species palm pests, such as rhinoceros
beetles and red palm weevils. The artificial landscaping may have
been the cause for lethal yellowing, a viral coconut palm disease that
leads to the death of the tree. It is spread by host insects, that
thrive on heavy turf grasses. Therefore, heavy turf grass environments
(beach resorts and golf courses) also pose a major threat to local
coconut trees. Traditionally, dessert banana plants and local wild
beach flora such as
Scaevola taccada and
Ipomoea pes-caprae were used
as humidity-supplying green undergrowth for coconut trees, mixed with
sea almond and sea hibiscus. Due to growing sedentary lifestyles and
heavy-handed landscaping, a decline in these traditional farming and
soil-fixing techniques has occurred.
Paintings on coconut shells for
Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead in the United States
In the United States, coconut palms can be grown and reproduced
outdoors without irrigation in Hawaii, southern and central
Florida, and the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa,
the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana
Coconuts are commonly grown around the northern coast of Australia,
and in some warmer parts of New South Wales.
The 1889 book 'The Useful Native Plants of Australia records that the
Cocus nucifera "nut is so well known that the following few notes
concerning it will be sufficient. As an article of food the kernel is
of great importance to the inhabitants of the tropics. In the
Laccadives it forms the chief food, each person consuming four nuts
per day, and the fluid, commonly called milk, which it contains,
affords them an agreeable beverage. While young they yield a delicious
substance resembling blancmange. Among other products of this palm may
be mentioned " toddy," which when fermented is intoxicating ;
strong arrack is also distilled from it, besides which it yields
vinegar and "jaggery" or sugar."
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Most of the tall mature coconut trees found in
Bermuda were shipped to
the island as seedlings on the decks of ships. In more recent years,
the importation of coconuts was prohibited; therefore, a large
proportion of the younger trees have been propagated from locally
In the winter, the growth rate of coconut trees declines due to cooler
temperatures and people have commonly attributed this to the reduced
yield of coconuts in comparison to tropical regions. However, whilst
cooler winter temperatures may be a factor in reducing fruit
production, the primary reason for the reduced yield is a lack of
water. Bermuda's soil is generally very shallow (1 1⁄2 to 3
feet [46 to 91 cm]) and much of a coconut tree's root mass is
found in the porous limestone underneath the soil. Due to the porosity
of the limestone, Bermuda's coconut trees do not generally have a
sufficient supply of water with which they are able to support a large
number of fruit as rainwater quickly drains down through the limestone
layer to the water table which is far too deep for a coconut's roots
to reach. This typically leads to a reduction in fruit yield
(sometimes as few as one or two mature fruits), as well as a reduced
milk content inside the coconut that often causes the fruit to be
Conversely, trees growing in close proximity to the sea almost
universally yield much more fruit, as they are able to tap directly
into the seawater which permeates the limestone in such areas. Not
only do these trees produce a significantly higher yield, but also the
fruit itself tends to be far more fertile due to the higher milk
content. Trees found growing in Bermuda's marshy inland areas enjoy a
similar degree of success, as they are also able to tap directly into
a constant supply of water.
Substitutes for cooler climates
In cooler climates (but not less than USDA Zone 9), a similar palm,
the queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana), is used in landscaping. Its
fruits are similar to the coconut, but smaller. The queen palm was
originally classified in the genus Cocos along with the coconut, but
was later reclassified in Syagrus. A recently discovered palm,
Beccariophoenix alfredii from Madagascar, is nearly identical to the
coconut, more so than the queen palm and can also be grown in slightly
cooler climates than the coconut palm. Coconuts can only be grown in
temperatures above 18 °C (64 °F) and need a daily
temperature above 22 °C (72 °F) to produce fruit.
The coconut palm is grown throughout the tropics for decoration, as
well as for its many culinary and nonculinary uses; virtually every
part of the coconut palm can be used by humans in some manner and has
significant economic value. Coconuts' versatility is sometimes noted
in its naming. In Sanskrit, it is kalpa vriksha ("the tree which
provides all the necessities of life"). In the Malay language, it is
pokok seribu guna ("the tree of a thousand uses"). In the Philippines,
the coconut is commonly called the "tree of life".
Coconut water drink
The various parts of the coconut have a number of culinary uses. The
seed provides oil for frying, cooking, and making margarine. The
white, fleshy part of the seed, the coconut meat, is used fresh or
dried in cooking, especially in confections and desserts such as
Desiccated coconut or coconut milk made from it is
frequently added to curries and other savory dishes.
Coconut flour has
also been developed for use in baking, to combat malnutrition.
Coconut chips have been sold in the tourist regions of
Hawaii and the
Coconut butter is often used to describe solidified coconut
oil, but has also been adopted as a name by certain specialty products
made of coconut milk solids or puréed coconut meat and oil. Dried
coconut is also used as the filling for many chocolate bars. Some
dried coconut is purely coconut, but others are manufactured with
other ingredients, such as sugar, propylene glycol, salt, and sodium
metabisulfite. Shredded or flaked coconut is used as a garnish on
some foods. Some countries in Southeast Asia use special coconut
Kopyor coconut (Kopyor in Indonesia) or macapuno (in the
Philippines) as dessert drinks.
Coconut meat, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
354 kcal (1,480 kJ)
Pantothenic acid (B5)
Link to USDA Database entry
μg = micrograms • mg = milligrams
IU = International units
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Per 100-gram serving with 354 calories, raw coconut meat supplies a
high amount of total fat (33 grams), especially saturated fat (89% of
total fat) and carbohydrates (24 g; see table).
significant content include the dietary minerals manganese, iron,
phosphorus, and zinc.
Coconut water serves as a suspension for the endosperm of the coconut
during its nuclear phase of development. Later, the endosperm matures
and deposits onto the coconut rind during the cellular phase. It is
consumed throughout the humid tropics, and has been introduced into
the retail market as a processed sports drink. Mature fruits have
significantly less liquid than young, immature coconuts, barring
Coconut water can be fermented to produce coconut vinegar.
Per 100-gram serving, coconut water contains 19 calories and no
significant content of essential nutrients.
See also: List of dishes using coconut milk
Coconut milk, not to be confused with coconut water, is obtained
primarily by extracting juice by pressing the grated coconut white
kernel or by passing hot water or milk through grated coconut, which
extracts the oil and aromatic compounds. It has a total fat content of
24%, most of which (89%) is saturated fat, with lauric acid as a major
fatty acid. When refrigerated and left to set, coconut cream will
rise to the top and separate from the milk. The milk can be used to
produce virgin coconut oil by controlled heating and removal of the
A protein-rich powder can be processed from coconut milk following
centrifugation, separation, and spray drying.
Another product of the coconut is coconut oil. It is commonly used in
cooking, especially for frying. It can be used in liquid form as would
other vegetable oils, or in solid form as would butter or lard.
Toddy and nectar
The sap derived from incising the flower clusters of the coconut is
drunk as neera, also known as toddy or tuba (Philippines), tuak
Indonesia and Malaysia) or karewe (fresh and not fermented, collected
twice a day, for breakfast and dinner) in Kiribati. When left to
ferment on its own, it becomes palm wine.
Palm wine is distilled to
produce arrack. In the Philippines, this alcoholic drink is called
lambanog or "coconut vodka".
The sap can be reduced by boiling to create a sweet syrup or candy
such as te kamamai in
Kiribati or dhiyaa hakuru and addu bondi in the
Maldives. It can be reduced further to yield coconut sugar also
referred to as palm sugar or jaggery. A young, well-maintained tree
can produce around 300 litres (66 imp gal;
79 US gal) of toddy per year, while a 40-year-old tree may
yield around 400 litres (88 imp gal;
110 US gal).
Heart of palm
Heart of palm 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
harvesting the buds kills the palms. Hearts of palm are eaten in
salads, sometimes called "millionaire's salad". Newly germinated
coconuts contain an edible fluff of marshmallow-like consistency
called coconut sprout, produced as the endosperm nourishes the
Coconut haustorium, a spongy absorbent tissue
formed from the distal portion of embryo during coconut germination,
facilitates absorption of nutrients for the growing shoot and
Coconut is an indispensable ingredient in Indonesian cuisine. Coconut
meat, coconut milk, and coconut water are often used in main courses,
desserts, and soups throughout the archipelago. On the island of
Sumatra, the famous rendang, the traditional beef stew from West
Sumatra, chunks of beef are cooked in coconut milk along with other
spices for hours until thickened. In Jakarta, soto babat or beef tripe
soup also uses coconut milk. On the island of Java, the sweet and
savoury tempe bacem is made by cooking tempeh with coconut water,
coconut sugar, and other spices until thickened. Klapertart is the
famous Dutch-influenced dessert from Manado, North Sulawesi, that uses
young coconut meat and coconut milk.
Indonesia increased its coconut production. It is now the
world's largest producer of coconuts. The gross production was
15 million tonnes. A sprouting coconut seed is the logo for
Gerakan Pramuka Indonesia, the Indonesian scouting organization. It
can be seen on all the scouting paraphernalia that elementary (SMA)
school children wear, as well as on the scouting pins and flags.
Harvesting coconuts in the
Philippines is done by workers who climb
the trees using notches cut into the trunk.
From left to right: grated, fresh, mature coconut meat; seed interior;
oil, rare two-eyed coconut shell; and more grated meat (Philippines)
Philippines is the world's second-largest producer of coconuts;
the production of coconuts plays an important role in the economy.
Coconuts in the
Philippines are usually used in making main dishes,
refreshments, and desserts.
Coconut juice is also a popular drink in
the country. In the Philippines, particularly Cebu, rice is wrapped in
coconut leaves for cooking and subsequent storage; these packets are
Coconut milk, known as gata, and grated coconut flakes
are used in the preparation of dishes such as laing, ginataan,
bibingka, ube halaya, pitsi-pitsî, palitaw and buko pie.
is made by mixing muscovado with coconut milk.
Coconut sport fruits
are also harvested. One such variety of coconut is known as macapuno.
Its meat is sweetened, cut into strands, and sold in glass jars as
coconut strings, sometimes labeled as "gelatinous mutant coconut".
Coconut water can be fermented to make a different product—nata de
coco (coconut gel).
In Vietnam, coconut is grown abundantly across central and southern
Vietnam, and especially in
Bến Tre Province, often called the "land
of the coconut". It is used to make coconut candy, caramel, and jelly.
Coconut juice and coconut milk are used, especially in Vietnam's
southern style of cooking, including kho, chè, and curry (cà ri).
Patoleo (sweet rice cakes steamed in turmeric leaves consisting of a
filling of freshly grated coconut and coconut sugar) prepared in Goan
In southern India, the most common way of cooking vegetables is to add
grated coconut and then steam them with spices fried in oil. People
India also make chutney, which involves grinding the
coconut with salt, chillies, and whole spices. Uruttu chammanthi
(granulated chutney) is eaten with rice or kanji (rice gruel). It is
also a main side dish served with idli, vadai, and dosai. Coconut
ground with spices is mixed in sambar and other various lunch dishes
for extra taste. Dishes garnished with grated coconut are generally
referred to as poduthol in
North Malabar and thoran in Kerala. Puttu
is a culinary delicacy of
Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in which layers of
coconut alternate with layers of powdered rice, all of which fit into
a bamboo stalk. Solkadhi, a drink made from coconut milk and kokum, is
usually consumed after meals. Narali paak is another sweet dish,
created with coconut and sugar.
Coconut meat can be eaten as a snack
sweetened with jaggery or molasses. In Karnataka, sweets are prepared
using coconut and dry coconut copra.
Commercial, industrial, and household use
Coconut has a number of commercial and traditional cultivars. They can
be sorted mainly into tall cultivars, dwarf cultivars, and hybrid
cultivars (hybrids between talls and dwarfs). Some of the dwarf
cultivars such as 'Malayan dwarf' have shown some promising resistance
to lethal yellowing, while other cultivars such as 'Jamaican tall' are
highly affected by the same plant disease. Some cultivars are more
drought resistant such as 'West coast tall' (India) while others such
Hainan Tall' (China) are more cold tolerant. Other aspects such as
seed size, shape and weight, and copra thickness are also important
factors in the selection of new cultivars. Some cultivars such as
'Fiji dwarf' form a large bulb at the lower stem and others are
cultivated to produce very sweet coconut water with orange-coloured
husks (king coconut) used entirely in fruit stalls for drinking (Sri
Extracting the fiber from the husk (Sri Lanka)
Coir (the fiber from the husk of the coconut) is used in ropes, mats,
doormats, brushes, and sacks, as caulking for boats, and as stuffing
fiber for mattresses. It is used in horticulture in potting
compost, especially in orchid mix.
Toys from coconut leaves
The stiff midribs of coconut leaves are used for making brooms in
Indonesia (sapu lidi), Malaysia, the Maldives, and the
Philippines (walis tingting). The green of the leaves (lamina) is
stripped away, leaving the veins (long, thin, woodlike strips) which
are tied together to form a broom or brush. A long handle made from
some other wood may be inserted into the base of the bundle and used
as a two-handed broom. The leaves also provide material for baskets
that can draw well water and for roofing thatch; they can be woven
into mats, cooking skewers, and kindling arrows as well. Two leaves
(especially the younger, yellowish shoots) woven into a tight shell
the size of the palm are filled with rice and cooked to make
ketupat. Dried coconut leaves can be burned to ash, which can be
harvested for lime. In India, the woven coconut leaves are used as
pandals (temporary sheds) for marriage functions especially in the
states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
Copra is the dried meat of the seed and after processing produces
coconut oil and coconut meal.
Coconut oil, aside from being used in
cooking as an ingredient and for frying, is used in soaps, cosmetics,
hair oil, and massage oil.
Coconut oil is also a main ingredient in
Ayurvedic oils. In Vanuatu, coconut palms for copra production are
generally spaced 9 m (30 ft) apart, allowing a tree density
of 100 to 160 per hectare (40 to 65 per acre).
Husks and shells
The husk and shells can be used for fuel and are a source of
Activated carbon manufactured from coconut shell is
considered extremely effective for the removal of impurities. The
coconut's obscure origin in foreign lands led to the notion of using
cups made from the shell to neutralise poisoned drinks. The cups were
frequently engraved and decorated with precious metals.
A dried half coconut shell with husk can be used to buff floors. It is
known as a bunot in the
Philippines and simply a "coconut brush" in
Jamaica. The fresh husk of a brown coconut may serve as a dish sponge
or body sponge. A coco chocolatero was a cup used to serve small
quantities of beverages (such as chocolate drinks) between the 17th
and 19th centuries in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, and
Coconut buttons in Dongjiao Town, Hainan, China
In Asia, coconut shells are also used as bowls and in the manufacture
of various handicrafts, including buttons carved from dried shell.
Coconut buttons are often used for Hawaiian aloha shirts. Tempurung,
as the shell is called in the Malay language, can be used as a soup
bowl and—if fixed with a handle—a ladle. In Thailand, the coconut
husk is used as a potting medium 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 in 1986. Fresh husks contain
more tannin than old husks.
Tannin produces negative effects on
sapling growth. In parts of South India, the shell and husk are
burned for smoke to repel mosquitoes.
Half coconut shells are used in theatre
Foley sound effects
Foley sound effects work,
struck together to create the sound effect of a horse's hoofbeats.
Dried half 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. In the Philippines, dried half shells are
also used as a music instrument in a folk dance called maglalatik.
In World War II, coastwatcher scout
Biuku Gasa was the first of two
Solomon Islands to reach the shipwrecked and wounded crew of
Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109
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, reading “Nauru Isl
commander / native knows posit / he can pilot / 11 alive need small
boat / Kennedy.” This coconut was later kept on the president's
desk, and is now in the
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy Library.
Coconut Palace, Manila, Philippines, built entirely out of coconut and
Coconut trunks are used for building small bridges and huts; they are
preferred for their straightness, strength, and salt resistance. In
Kerala, coconut trunks are used for house construction.
comes from the trunk, and is increasingly being used as an
ecologically sound substitute for endangered hardwoods. It has
applications in furniture and specialized construction, as notably
demonstrated in Manila's
Hawaiians hollowed the trunk to form drums, containers, or small
canoes. 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.
The roots are used as a dye, a mouthwash, and a medicine for diarrhea
and dysentery. A frayed piece of root can also be used as a
Coconuts are used in the beauty industry in moisturizers and body
butters. The coconut shell may also be ground down
and added to products for exfoliation of dead skin.
Coconut is also a source of lauric acid, which can be processed in a
particular way to produce sodium lauryl sulfate, a detergent used in
shower gels and shampoos.
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Ilocos region of the northern Philippines, the Ilocano people
fill two halved coconut shells with diket (cooked sweet rice), and
place liningta nga itlog (halved boiled egg) on top of it. This
ritual, known as niniyogan, is an offering made to the deceased and
one's ancestors. This accompanies the palagip (prayer to the dead).
A coconut (Sanskrit: nalikera) is an essential element of rituals in
Hindu tradition. Often it is decorated with bright metal foils and
other symbols of auspiciousness. It is offered during worship to a
Hindu god or goddess.
Narali Purnima is celebrated on a full moon day
which usually signifies the end of monsoon season in India. The word
‘Narali’ is derived from naral implying ‘coconut’ in Marathi.
Fishermen give an offering of coconut to the sea to celebrate the
beginning of a new fishing season. Irrespective of their religious
affiliations, fishermen of
India often offer it to the rivers and seas
in the hopes of having bountiful catches. 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. In the foothills of the temple town of Palani,
before going to worship
Murugan for the Ganesha, coconuts are broken
at a place marked for the purpose. Every day, thousands of coconuts
are broken, and some devotees break as many as 108 coconuts at a time
as per the prayer. In tantric practices, coconuts are sometimes used
as substitutes for human skulls.
Hindu wedding ceremonies, a coconut is placed over the opening of a
pot, representing a womb.
Coconut flowers are auspicious symbols and
are fixtures at
Buddhist weddings and other important
occasions. In Kerala, coconut flowers must be present during a
marriage ceremony. The flowers are inserted into a barrel of unhusked
rice (paddy) and placed within sight of the wedding ceremony.
Similarly in Sri Lanka, coconut flowers, standing in brass urns, are
placed in prominent positions.
Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club
Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club of
New Orleans traditionally
throws hand-decorated coconuts, the most valuable of Mardi Gras
souvenirs, to parade revelers. The "Tramps" began the tradition circa
1901. In 1987, a "coconut law" was signed by Governor Edwin Edwards
exempting from insurance liability any decorated coconut "handed" from
a Zulu float.
The coconut is also used as a target and prize in the traditional
British fairground game "coconut shy". The player buys some small
balls which he throws as hard as he can at coconuts balanced on
sticks. The aim is to knock a coconut off the stand and win it.
It was the main food of adherents of the now discontinued Vietnamese
religion Đạo Dừa in Bến Tre.
Myths and legends
Some South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Ocean cultures have
origin myths in which the coconut plays the main role. In the
Hainuwele myth from Maluku, a girl emerges from the blossom of a
coconut tree. In Maldivian folklore, one of the main myths of
origin reflects the dependence of the
Maldivians on the coconut
According to an urban legend, more deaths are caused by falling
coconuts than by sharks annually.
Making a rug from coconut fiber
The leftover fiber from coconut oil and coconut milk production,
coconut meal, is used as livestock feed. The dried calyx is used as
fuel in wood-fired stoves.
Coconut water is traditionally used as a
growth supplement in plant tissue culture and micropropagation.
The smell of coconuts comes from the 6-pentyloxan-2-one molecule,
known as δ-decalactone in the food and fragrance industries.
Tool and shelter for animals
Researchers from the
Melbourne Museum in Australia observed the
Amphioctopus marginatus use tools, specifically
coconut shells, for defense and shelter. The discovery of this
behavior was observed in
Bali and North
1998 and 2008.
Amphioctopus marginatus is the first
invertebrate known to be able to use tools.
A coconut can be hollowed out and used as a home for a rodent or small
birds. 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
Coconut oil is increasingly used in the food industry. Proteins
from coconut may cause food allergy, including anaphylaxis.
In the United States, the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
U.S. Food and Drug Administration declared
that coconut must be disclosed as an ingredient on package labels as a
"tree nut" with potential allergenicity.
Cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB) is a surfactant manufactured from
coconut oil that is increasingly used as an ingredient in personal
hygiene products and cosmetics, such as shampoos, liquid soaps,
cleansers and antiseptics, among others. CAPB may cause mild skin
irritation, but allergic reactions to CAPB are rare and
probably related to impurities rendered during the manufacturing
process (which include amidoamine and dimethylaminopropylamine) rather
than CAPB itself.
'West Coast Tall' (WCT) variety is a long lived and sturdy palm
indigenous to the western coast of India.
Many varieties of coconuts C. nucifera are being cultivated in many
countries. These vary by the taste of the coconut water and color of
the fruit, as well as other genetic factors.
Dwarf yellow coconut
Dwarf orange coconut
Golden Malay coconut
Dwarf green coconut
Fiji Dwarf (Niu Leka)
Green Malay coconut
Yellow Malay coconut
Hybrid (red and green mix) and green coconuts
Central Plantation Crops Research Institute
Coconut production in Kerala
Coir Board of India
Death by coconut
List of coconut dishes
List of dishes made using coconut milk
Voanioala gerardii – forest coconut, the closest relative of
the modern coconut
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Plant List: kew-44645
BNF: cb12121896b (d