Forest EcologyGeneral SilviculturePlant Taxonomy

Cocos nucifera

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Cocos nucifera. Family


Cocos nucifera. English Name


Cocos nucifera. Local Name


Cocos nucifera.

Cocos nucifera. Description

This plant is the only living species of the genus Cocos.  It is one of the most useful trees in the world and is often referred to as the “tree of life”. Trees grow up to 30m tall and can yield up to 75 fruits per year, with pinnate leaves 4-6m long, and pinnae are 60-90cm long; old leaves break away cleanly, leaving the trunk smooth. The fruit is a drupe, not a true nut, it has three layers: the exocarp, mesocarp, and endocarp. The exocarp is the glossy outer skin, usually yellow green to yellow brown in colour. The mesocarp is composed of a fiber, called coir, which has many traditional and commercial uses. Both the exocarp and the mesocarp make up the “husk” of the coconut, while the endocarp makes up the hard coconut shell. The endocarp is around 4mm thick and has three distinctive germination pores (micropyles) on the distal end.

Cocos nucifera.

Cocos nucifera. Distribution

This species is cultivated in coastal areas throughout the tropics and some sub-tropical countries. The plant thrives on sandy soils and is highly tolerant of salinity. It prefers areas with abundant sunlight and rainfall 150-250mm annually, which makes colonizing shorelines of the tropics relatively straightforward. They can also be found in humid areas with low annual precipitation like in Karachi, Pakistan.

Cocos nucifera.

Cocos nucifera. Uses

It provides food, fuel, cosmetics, and folk medicine and building materials, among many other uses. Dried coconut flesh is called copra, and the oil and milk derived from it are commonly used in cooking – frying in particular – as well as in soaps and cosmetics. The hard shells, fibrous husks and long pinnate leaves can be used as material to make a variety of products for furnishing and decoration.

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