Cocos nucifera

Common Names: Coconut

Family: Arecaceae

Habit: Cocos nucifera grows with a single unbranched trunk (often leaning), up to 30 m in height and 50 cm in diameter although the base gets thicker. The leaves are arranged in a spiral fashion grouped at the growing tip. The leaves are pinnnately compound and up to 7 m in length.

Cocos nucifera is monoecious. The incomplete, imperfect, actinomorphic flowers are arranged in a panicle inflorescence that emerges at the leaf bases from 2 large bracts. The flowers are whitish and clustered with 2 staminate flowers for each carpellate flower. The staminate flowers have 3 sepals in the calyx, 6 stamens and an infertile ovary. The carpellate flowers are larger than the staminate, have 3 sepals, 3 petals, infertile stamens and an ovary with 3 locules. The fruit is a 3-sided drupe (40-50 cm long) that turns yellow or brown with age and has a thick fibrous husk around it.

Habitat: Cocos nucifera grows in many habitats from areas of human habitation to sandy beaches.

Distribution: Cocos nucifera is NOT native to the Lucayan Archipelago although it occurs on all of the islands. It also occurs throughout the world in tropic and subtropic areas. It is native to the Asia/Pacific region.

Medicinal/Cultural/Economic usage: Cocos nucifera is used in the Lucayan Archipelago to cure sore throats.

The flowers can be an important source for honey bees. The fruit is highly edible. It produces a “milk” that can be consumed and a “meat”; that is used in cooking and making of sweets or eaten raw. From the edible portions oils are also extracted for cooking and soap production. The husk and “shell” are used for sculpture and jewelry. The leaves can be used for thatch for roofing or plaiting to make hats.

Cocos nucifera is considered one of the most economically important tree species in the world.