Under the coconut trees

Description of a Coconut Tree

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Coconut trees are familiar to anyone who has ever visited or seen pictures of a tropical beach. Coconut trees are a species of palm trees. While all coconut trees are palm trees, not all palm trees are coconut trees. They’re one of the most popular fruit-bearing trees in the world.

What Does A Coconut Tree Look Like?

A coconut tree or a coconut palm is a member of the species Cocos nucifera. This is a member of the palm family, and it’s a tree that’s cultivated the world over for its fruit, the coconut. Despite its name, the coconut isn’t a nut, it’s a particular kind of fruit. The coconut has a fibrous outer husk, a hard shell, an interior containing a thick layer of coconut “meat” and water in the deepest part of the interior.

Coconut trees can vary in size and thickness, but they look similar to a standard palm. Coconut trees have a textured trunk. The trunks are slender, and the trees themselves generally rise to a height of about 80 feet. The bases of coconut trees are very thick, and the top of the tree is capped by a growth of fronds. Palm fronds are leaves that are similarly shaped to feathers and fan outward from the trunk of the tree. Hanging at the top of the tree near the trunk and shaded by the fronds are the coconuts.

Because coconut fruits are buoyant, they float very easily. Coconut fruits falling into the water and floating away on the tides is one way that the fruit has been dispersed across the tropics and parts of the world where coconuts are now very plentiful.

Where Are Coconut Trees Found?

Coconut trees are found throughout the southern hemisphere in places where it’s humid and hot. Tropical and subtropical climates see the most proliferation in the growth of coconut trees. Coconut tree growth in the continental United States is limited to the southern part of the state of Florida. However, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Cuba are other places where coconut trees grow.

While the western part of the world utilizes and enjoys the fruit of the coconut tree, the growth and utilization of coconut trees and coconuts is far greater in places like South Asia, India and the Polynesian region of the world. Coconut trees are found in the Caribbean islands, Madagascar, Tahiti and other warm and humid places.

Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are other places where coconuts are prevalent and widely grown. Surfing culture in Hawaii has made the specter of the coconut tree and the coconut plant itself widely associated with the state, but it’s much more prevalent in Asia and the tropical parts of South and Central America.

What Environment is Best for Coconut Trees?

Coconut trees can only grow in a tropical climate. A tropical climate is characterized by significant heat and humidity and the prevalence of sandy soil. Coconut trees need significant rainfall to thrive and also require temperatures that don’t dip far below 40 to 50 degrees.

Because of the need for sandy soil versus the kind of rich peaty soil that characterizes the climate of places like Europe and the American northeast, coconut trees live only in climates that are near beaches or shorelines. Areas with low humidity, like the California desert, for example, is a climate in which some palm trees can survive, but the coconut palm tree isn’t among them.

The best weather conditions result in the best coconut fruit production. Coconut palm trees can flower and produce up to 75 coconuts a year per tree if they’re granted their optimal living conditions. However, these conditions are extremely rare, particularly outside of farming areas since weather patterns are unpredictable and the chance of blight is high. Typically, most coconut trees produce about 30 coconuts per year.

What Parts of the Coconut Can Be Used?

One of the truly remarkable things about coconuts is that every single part of the fruit can be used: the husk, the hard shell, the soft inner flesh and the water, milk and oil. Each of these elements has value economically and socially.

The tree itself is attached to a very strong fibrous root system. There’s an abundance of fiber in coconuts and the fruit can be used to feed humans and animals who are able to deal with the excessive amounts of fiber in the fruit.

The expansive usefulness of coconuts is unique to fruit from a tree. Almost no other fruits have as many marketable and usable elements as the coconut.

What Are Coconuts Used For?

Coconuts are tremendously useful and an extremely valuable piece of the world economy. In Indonesia, the coconut palm is knowns as “the tree of a thousand uses.” Every bit of the coconut, from the outer husk to the liquid inside is used in multiple ways, from home furnishing to food to medicine.

The outer husk of the coconut can be used to weave sacks, rugs, lampshades, home furnishings and other accouterments. They can be used as natural scrubbers and to make rope. The shells can be used to steam food and for baskets and other handicrafts. The inner fruit of the coconut is pure white and can be eaten either raw or cooked. Coconut milk can be squeezed out of the coconut and drank or used in hair and skin products.

Coconut water and coconut oil are tremendously efficacious products that are extremely hydrating and loaded with antioxidants. Coconut oil, aside from being a cooking agent and generally a healthful addition to the diet, is used widely in the beauty industry. It’s found in hair conditioner, moisturizer, cuticle cream and a variety of makeup products.

Why Are Coconuts and Coconut Trees So Popular?

Coconut trees are extremely popular and valuable because they’ve helped sustain life in some parts of the planet since the beginning of time. The coconut tree has provided shade, food, building materials and a means to make clothing; it has been used for medicine and as a sealer for joints for boats, making water travel possible. It has truly been a life-giving plant.

In the modern world, coconut trees, coconuts and coconut by-products are a critical part of the world economy. For countries that export coconuts to other parts of the world, they’re a sustaining part of their gross national product. They’re immensely valuable as a trade item and help small island nations supplement the income from tourism. This is especially critical in countries where citizens have limited natural resources to trade.

Coconut trees are also popular because their presence is synonymous with the beach, relaxation and the good life. Coconuts exist in virtually all tropical climates. If you’re in view of a coconut tree, chances are that you’re on vacation or spending time in a beautiful, tranquil and tropical part of the world.

The Coconut: A Tropical Icon

What would a tropical vacation be without the rustle and sway of the leaves of the mighty yet humble coconut tree? It is hard to imagine a Caribbean beach without them. And yet, like a fellow traveller, the ubiquitous coconut tree is not a native to these shores. Originally from the coasts of Africa and the Indian Ocean, the coconut palm was introduced to the Caribbean by early settlers. Being supremely well-adapted to a tropical maritime coast, coconut palms spread throughout the shores of the Caribbean and tropical America.
But coconuts are a mixed blessing, they are both beneficial and destructive.
The blessing is that the benefits of coconut are abundant, it is a rich resource of food, fuel and material for shelter. The nut is full of water, and rich in nutrients, especially oils. The nut and its husk provide excellent fuel for cooking and warmth. The shell of the nut is extremely hard and can be made into a variety of useful items from bowls to bras (festive use only), to jewellery and various forms of artwork. The leaves can be woven into hats, or employed to thatch roofs and walls. Even the flower stalk is used to make a broom to sweep the yard, or, sometimes, to discipline children.

Young coconut trees

Coconut trees are an invasive, climax species, however, and once established on an island they start to take over. Dispersal is by water. The tree grows outward as well as upward, so the nuts will fall away from the trunk. If the tree is on the beach, some of the nuts will be washed out to sea where they may be carried long distances, to land on a distant shore. High tides and winds will push the nut above the high water where, as soon as it soaks up some rain, it will germinate. The tree grows quickly, shading out nearby trees and dropping its gigantic leaves (each frond is a single leaf) to cover the ground beneath it. If the tree is growing towards the forest, its leaves will smother the seedlings of other plants, or prevent their seeds from reaching the ground to germinate. The coconut, having a huge seed with plenty of stored food, can grow up through this tangled mat of leaf-fall, out-competing all others. In this way the coconut will gradually invade and choke out the native littoral forest.

Coconuts at Lighthouse Reef

At Half Moon Caye, on Lighthouse Reef, the littoral forest is under the protection and stewardship of the Belize Audubon Society. Here they are beginning to manage the forest by removing coconut trees that have been gradually invading and taking it over. Even there though, the tree is important and provides huge benefits. In the greater part of the island there is no littoral forest. Here coconut trees provide much-needed shade and stabilize the soil. Along the shore, a high wall of coconut trees helps protect the littoral forest from the winds of hurricanes and tropical storms. The key is to remove the trees which are invading, leaving a narrow buffer zone for the forest to grow into, and to keep those trees which cushion the forest against the terrible forces of storm winds.

One final word to the wise: before you linger too long in the shade of the coconut trees, look up. That is a heavy nut and the trees are tall.

What do you think about Coconuts? Do you like them because of their benefits, or hate them for being destructive?

What would a tropical vacation be without the rustle and sway of the leaves of the mighty yet humble coconut tree? It is hard to imagine a Caribbean beach without them. And yet, like a fellow traveller, the ubiquitous coconut tree is not a native to these shores. Originally from the coasts of Africa and the Indian Ocean, the coconut palm was introduced to the Caribbean by early settlers. Being supremely well-adapted to a tropical maritime coast, coconut palms spread throughout the shores of the Caribbean and tropical America.

But coconuts are a mixed blessing, they are both beneficial and destructive.

The blessing is that the benefits of coconut are abundant, it is a rich resource of food, fuel and material for shelter. The nut is full of water, and rich in nutrients, especially oils. The nut and its husk provide excellent fuel for cooking and warmth. The shell of the nut is extremely hard and can be made into a variety of useful items from bowls to bras (festive use only), to jewellery and various forms of artwork. The leaves can be woven into hats, or employed to thatch roofs and walls. Even the flower stalk is used to make a broom to sweep the yard, or, sometimes, to discipline children.

Young coconut trees Coconut trees are an invasive, climax species, however, and once established on an island they start to take over. Dispersal is by water. The tree grows outward as well as upward, so the nuts will fall away from the trunk. If the tree is on the beach, some of the nuts will be washed out to sea where they may be carried long distances, to land on a distant shore. High tides and winds will push the nut above the high water where, as soon as it soaks up some rain, it will germinate. The tree grows quickly, shading out nearby trees and dropping its gigantic leaves (each frond is a single leaf) to cover the ground beneath it. If the tree is growing towards the forest, its leaves will smother the seedlings of other plants, or prevent their seeds from reaching the ground to germinate. The coconut, having a huge seed with plenty of stored food, can grow up through this tangled mat of leaf-fall, out-competing all others. In this way the coconut will gradually invade and choke out the native littoral forest.Coconuts at Lighthouse Reef At Half Moon Caye, on Lighthouse Reef, the littoral forest is under the protection and stewardship of the Belize Audubon Society. Here they are beginning to manage the forest by removing coconut trees that have been gradually invading and taking it over. Even there though, the tree is important and provides huge benefits. In the greater part of the island there is no littoral forest. Here coconut trees provide much-needed shade and stabilize the soil. Along the shore, a high wall of coconut trees helps protect the littoral forest from the winds of hurricanes and tropical storms. The key is to remove the trees which are invading, leaving a narrow buffer zone for the forest to grow into, and to keep those trees which cushion the forest against the terrible forces of storm winds. One final word to the wise: before you linger too long in the shade of the coconut trees, look up. That is a heavy nut and the trees are tall.

What do you think about Coconuts? Do you like them because of their benefits, or hate them for being destructive?

Coconut Palm Trees Could Save Your Life on a Desert Island

The crown of a coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) tree, heavy with fruit. Wikimedia Commons (CC By-SA 4.0)

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If you’ve seen the 2000 movie “Cast Away,” you probably remember the scene in which Tom Hanks’ character, who survived a plane crash and found refuge on a desert island, struggles to crack open coconuts before finally figuring out how to tap into one and drink from it.

That moment is fairly commonplace desert-island-survival-movie stuff, but just how reality-based is the idea of actually living off coconuts if you were stranded and needed food and water? Well, it turns out that, in such a situation, a coconut palm tree actually could be your best hope for survival.

There are numerous species of palm trees that produce edible fruits, ranging from date palms, which have been cultivated since ancient times in the Middle East, and the snake palm, which produces a reddish-brown fruit whose pulp has a sweet, acidic taste, to the peach palm found in Central and South America, whose fruit must be cooked for several hours before it can be eaten. But if you’re looking for the palm species that would produce the most nutritious fruit and would be likely to be found on a Pacific island, the fruit that Tom Hanks (and Wilson?) could have survived on, the choice narrows down.

“My main answer to you is COCONUTS!!” says Sara Tekula, director of programs at the Merwin Conservancy, a 19-acre (7.7-hectare) sanctuary for rare palms that was hand-planted by the late poet W.S. Merwin and features over 400 species of palm from around the world. “Coconuts, coconuts, coconuts.”

The coconut palm tree (Cocos nucifera) is native to tropical islands in the western Pacific Ocean, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. They’re tall trees, growing as tall as 100 feet (30 meters), and have a trunk with a branchless, light gray trunk that’s swollen at the base and topped by a crown of arching green fronds that stretch as long as 20 feet (6 meters). It has fragrant yellow flowers, which appear in clusters, and of course, coconuts, which technically are a fruit rather than a nut, and grow to up to 14 inches (36 centimeters) long.

Tekula explains in an email that although coconut palms aren’t native to the Hawaiian islands, they are commonly found growing there and elsewhere in the Pacific. Atlas Obscura reports that nearly 40 percent of the world’s islands exist within the climate zone that’s hospitable to coconut trees.

Coconut Palm, the Tree of Life

“They are referred to as ‘the tree of life’ in the Philippines, ‘the tree with a thousand uses’ in Malaysia, and ‘the tree which provides all the necessities of life’ in Sanskrit,” Tekula continues. “Without a doubt, if you were stranded on an island, you’d want a mature coconut tree to be there with you! There are stories of island and coastal people in the tropics surviving months of drought with coconut palms providing the only drinking water available.”

Indeed, according to this 2004 Guardian article, three children who survived the sinking of their parents’ boat in Papua New Guinea and swam to a small island managed to live for several day on a diet of coconuts, plums and oysters, until they were finally rescued.

“In Hawaii, coconut palms are known as ‘niu’ and are considered a very important food source,” Tekula continues. “And while they are not native to this place, they are one of the celebrated “canoe plants” — valued cargo on the sailing canoes of the original Polynesian voyagers to Hawai`i. Some of the ancestors of the trees currently found in Hawai’i also floated ashore, alive for up to 4 months at sea, still able to germinate. They are the symbol of resilience! They are celebrated here so much so that traditionally, a coconut palm is planted at the birth time of a child born here in Hawaii. Niu is the kinolau (physical embodiment) of a Hawaiian god.”

If you’re sufficiently agile and adventurous, you can climb up the coconut tree to pick coconuts; otherwise, you can wait for them to ripen and fall to the ground. The fruit has a wooden shell surrounded by a fibrous husk, but inside is the stuff that a person wants — the coconut meat, which can be eaten raw or cooked, and the drinkable liquid, called coconut water, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden.

“The nutritional qualities of a coconut — its meat and its water/juice — are nothing short of miraculous,” Tekula explains. “The meat is high in healthy fats, which are very important for survival, and the juice is filled with minerals/micronutrients like potassium, manganese, copper, iron, selenium, zinc and can keep your electrolytes balanced and blood levels healthy.”

If you’re thinking about bringing a coconut in your cruise ship luggage to plant in case you’re somehow marooned, you may be disappointed to learn that it takes seven to eight years for a tree to grow to the point where it can produce coconuts, according to Takula. On the other hand, if you find a coconut tree that’s already been growing for a while in high-quality soil, it can yield between 30 and 75 fruits per year, and keep doing that for several decades, she says.

Besides providing food, coconut trees’ leaves can be used to make the thatched roof of a hut, and the shells can be burned as fuel. “A few of these trees will provide you with every possible thing you require,” the naturalist Percy Roycroft Lowe wrote in 1911. As this 2017 BBC Travel article notes, coconut oil also has antibacterial properties.

But while coconuts are highly nutritious, depending on them as your lone food source for long periods might not be ideal. There’s the cautionary tale of August Engelhardt, a German nudist and coconut devotee who lived on the island of Kabakon in which is now Papua, New Guinea, from 1902 to 1919 and subsisted entirely upon a diet of coconuts. After seven years of that extreme diet, he was so severely malnourished that his bodyweight was just 66 pounds. He reportedly was found dead on the beach, according to this National Public Radio story. Engelhardt became a character in Swiss writer Christian Knacht’s well-regarded 2012 novel, “Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas.”

“Coconuts are a complete fat source and are a good source of protein and carbohydrates as well if you eat the ball in the middle of a sprouting nut,” explains Tom Williams, whose company, Desert Island Survival, offers survival training courses on uninhabited islands in the Pacific. “However, they are severely lacking in Vitamins A, K, B6 and B12, as well as calcium. Deficiencies in these vitamins can cause pernicious or microcytic anemia, loss of ability to fight infections, and increased bruising/bleeding.”

“As far as water, if you just drink the green coconuts, you can survive on this as a water source,” Williams writes in an email. “If you drink just the mature nuts, the high oil and mineral content will lead to diarrhea and ultimately dehydration.”

Williams says that getting into a coconut isn’t difficult for someone with a machete or a knife. But like Tom Hanks in the movie, an actual castaway probably isn’t going to have such tools. “In this case, juvenile green nuts can easily be split open hitting them on jagged rocks,” Williams says. “Older mature nuts with more meat develop a very strong protective husk to prepare them for voyages across the ocean, and this is extremely hard to get into. The best method without a knife is to make a spike from a hardwood. This is not a simple process without a knife but can be achieved by fire — also further hardening the spike — and then sharpening the point on rocks. You can then use the point to pry open the husk.”

Teal waves curl onto a cream-colored beach. Towering coconut palm trees line the shore, like giant feather dusters rooted in the sand. The green fronds of the trees rustle in the ocean breeze, offering a shady retreat from the equatorial heat.

To the modern dive traveler, coconut palms signify warm seas and sunny beaches. To people living in the tropical areas of the world, the coconut palm is the “tree of life,” and has been an important source of food, clothing and shelter for thousands of years.

A Tree’s Roots

The origin of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) is the subject of an ongoing debate. The current theory is that it is native to Malesia, a biogeographical region roughly defined as an area that includes Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Australia, New Guinea, and several Pacific island groups. It is difficult to know when humans began cultivating the coconut palm, but there is evidence to suggest that 3,000 years ago coconuts were being used in India.

Today, coconut palms grow throughout the tropics in a band around the world 25 degrees north and 25 degrees south of the equator. The tree can be found in Southeast Asia, Indonesia, India, Australia, the Pacific Islands, South America, Africa, the Caribbean, and the southern extremes of North America. Ideal growing conditions for coconut palms include free-draining aerated soil often found on sandy beaches, a supply of fresh groundwater, a humid atmosphere, and temperatures between 80 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (27 and 30 degrees Celsius).

Both humans and marine currents are responsible for distributing the coconut palm around the world. Portable and slow to rot, coconuts were carried in the ships of explorers and the canoes of the nomadic Polynesians. Saltwater-resistant and also able to float, coconuts can ride marine currents long distances and can germinate even after three months bobbing at sea.

Botanically Speaking

There are two varieties of coconut palm: tall or dwarf. The tall variety is commonly planted for commercial purposes. With a life span of 60-80 years, it is considered a “three-generation tree” as it can support a farmer, his children, and his grandchildren. The tree is slow to mature, bearing coconuts in six to 10 years. A mature tree has a trunk about 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter and can obtain a height of 100 feet (30 m). The top of the tree is adorned with 20 or so large downward curving leaves, called fronds, each about 10-15 feet (3-4.5 m) long. The dwarf variety is about a third the size, has a shorter life span and is difficult to grow, but valued because it produces coconuts earlier than the tall tree.

While a coconut is commonly thought to be a nut, it is actually the fruit of the tree. The coconut is classified botanically as a “drupe,” defined as a stone fruit that usually has a single hard stone encasing a seed. Peaches, plums and cherries are other examples of drupes. Coconuts resemble warped footballs and grow in clusters of 10-20, with 10 or 12 clusters visible on a tree at one time. Each coconut consists of a smooth outer rind (epicarp), a thick fibrous husk (mesocarp), and a stony inner shell (endocarp) pitted with three small “eyes” or germination pores. The pores are often called the “monkey face.” Everything within the hard shell comprises the coconut seed.

Tropical Bounty

One coconut takes a full year to mature from a flower into a ripe fruit. During this time the coconut passes through four development stages, each with different food properties:

Stage 1. When the coconut is immature, or green, the liquid within the inner shell is sweet and refreshing, and can yield up to a liter of juice. Since it’s sealed in its own hygienic container, the liquid can be used in place of sterile water for medicinal purposes, and is often used to treat dehydration and upset stomachs. During World War II, the liquid of the green coconut was used as a substitute for a medical saline drip, saving the lives of many soldiers stationed in the tropical Pacific.

Stage 2. As the coconut begins to ripen, a thin white layer of “meat” begins to line the inner shell. The “meat” has the consistency of a soft-boiled egg at this stage and can be eaten with a spoon.

Stage 3. The coconut continues to ripen as it remains on the tree. The meaty inner lining of the shell thickens and hardens, and the liquid turns to tasteless water. The fresh meat can be shredded and used in cooking, or dried to produce “copra,” from which coconut oil is extracted.

Stage 4. If a coconut ripens fully on the tree and falls to the ground, it can germinate under the right conditions. As it sprouts, a white spongy sweet ball, called the “apple,” develops within the inner shell, absorbing both the liquid and meat. The apple can be eaten, and is considered a sweet delicacy.

Other food and beverage products derived from the coconut palm make the tree a versatile and vital source of sustenance to tropical cultures. In addition to the juice of the coconut, another beverage comes from a different part of the tree. The flowering stalk, called the inflorescence, can be bound, cut and tapped for its sap. Called sweet toddy, the fresh sap is loaded with nutrients and is the daily drink in many tropical cultures. The sap can also be boiled to make syrup, or fermented into an alcoholic beverage.

A common product used in the cuisine of Southeast Asia — coconut milk — is not the same thing as coconut juice from the inner shell. Coconut milk is made by soaking fresh or dried coconut meat in warm water, filtering the solid material, and allowing the “cream” to rise to the surface. Coconut oil, derived from copra, is also used in cooking.

Another food product comes from the cylindrical stalks of new, unopened leaf shoots at the top of the tree. Called heart of palm, the food is prized for its crunchy texture and refreshing taste. Extracting the heart kills a coconut palm tree, and as a result a heart of palm salad earned the nickname “millionaire’s salad.” Fortunately, there are other species of palm trees that do not die when their hearts are harvested, and these provide heart of palm in commercial quantities.

The Giving Tree

The variety of edible products derived from the coconut palm qualifies the tree for VIP — Very Important Plant — status. But wait; there’s more. As the Indonesians say, “there are as many uses for the coconut palm as there are days of the year.”

The tree is an excellent source of building materials. Posts and beams are made from the tree’s trunk. Thatched roofs, made by placing the long leaves close together, keep water out and allow air to circulate. Strong siding comes from the dried spines of the fronds. In addition to providing materials for structural shelters, the standing trees shelter people and animals from sun and rain. They also act as an important barrier to tropical storms, as they’re flexible and able to withstand high winds.

For clothing and household needs, the husk of the coconut is spun into a saltwater-resistant fiber called “coir,” used to make ropes, nets, mats, brushes and sewing thread. The leaves of the tree can be woven into hats, baskets, fans and brooms. Other household items such as bowls, spoons and buttons are carved from the hard shell of the coconut. Handicrafts and jewelry, made from various parts of the tree, are sold to tourists. All parts of the tree can be composted into fertilizer, and the leaves used as animal feed. The leaves, husks and shells are burned for fuel.

Commercially, charcoal filters made from coconut shells are used in gas masks and cigarettes, and are considered superior to filters made from other sources. The cosmetic and hygiene industries have incorporated coconut oil into makeup, soap, moisture creams, and hair care products.

Throughout history, man has tinkered with nature in an attempt to create the perfect plant. In the case of the coconut palm tree, nature beat him to it.

Coconut Folklore

Since the coconut palm is vital to many cultures, it follows that there are numerous beliefs and legends regarding this prized plant. In India, the coconut symbolizes the goddess of fertility, and is bestowed upon women wishing to bear children. Similarly, in parts of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the coconut palm represents birth, and a tree is planted for every newborn. In the Philippines, human origin is believed to come from two coconuts, one male and one female, washed ashore from the sea. Polynesian legend says that coconuts only grow where they can hear the sound of the sea and human voices.

Many legends tell the origin of the coconut palm, and that of Tonga is retold here. On a remote Tongan island there lived a beautiful young girl named Heina. She lived beside a freshwater lake with her parents. Every morning Heina bathed in the lake and was watched by an eel that fell in love with her. Heina agreed to marry the eel, but her parents forbade it. The father trapped the eel, and before killing him allowed him to see Heina one last time. The eel begged her to ask her parents to keep his head and bury it outside her house. This was done, and each day Heina sat and shed tears where the head was buried.

After a time, a green shoot peeked through the tear-nurtured soil, and Heina realized she was pregnant. As the plant grew, so did the child inside her. Heina bore a son, and the plant grew taller to become the first coconut palm. As the boy grew, he climbed the tree and brought down the fruit from the top. Heina knew that the strange tree would be of use to her people. As a reminder of this love story, the eel’s face can be seen on every coconut in the form of three dark patches — two for the eyes and one for the mouth. It is from the mouth that the goodness comes, for this is the only place to make a hole to reach the sweet juice inside.

What’s in a Name?

To Portuguese and Spanish explorers, the three dark patches at the base of a coconut shell resembled the face of a goblin. “Coco” in Portuguese and Spanish is the word for goblin. The word coco has often been translated to mean monkey face.

In the mid-1700s, Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language lists “cocoanut” as the fruit of the coconut palm. It was surmised that Johnson confused coconuts with cacao beans, later called cocoa, when chocolate made its way to England. Over time, the “a” was omitted.

By Amy Gulick

Coconut is a multipurpose fruit with high economic value. Though mango is the king of fruits in India, coconut is celebrated as a symbol of prosperity, a blessing of nature, an auspicious object of ceremony, a useful item of handicraft, and an essential ingredient for cooking. The origin of this plant is debated. The mentions of coconut are found in the “One Thousand and One Nights” story of Sindbad the Sailor. He is said to have sold it during his voyage. Marco Polo called this tropical fruit Nux Indica in 1280. The names used by the Arabs to refer to it mean “Indian nut”. The crew of Vosco da Gama’s ship named it Coco after a ghost in some Portuguese folklore as the rough surface of coconut reminded them of the ghost.

Today is the World Coconut Day. We at Indian Eagle are glad to share some offbeat facts of coconut and how this coastal fruit crept into the socio-cultural fabric of India.

Coconut is a beauty of Kerala. Unique to the rural landscape and cultural life of Kerala, coconut plays an important role in the economy of the state. Coconut farming is a great means of sustenance for a majority of rural population across the backwaters of Kerala. Evidently, with about 46% of the total production, Kerala is the largest coconut-producing state of India.

Kerala literally means “Land of Coconut Trees”; so the state owes its name to this hard-shelled fruit. Kerala is combined of two words: “Kera” meaning coconut tree and “Alam” meaning land.

The shores of backwaters are dotted by rows of coconut trees across the landscape of Kerala. Coconut palms of different heights with their roots deep in the soil and hanging over the waters add to the green beauty of the state. Climbing on to the peak of coconut trees by dhoti-clad rural men with a piece of cloth wrapped around the forehead is a common sight to behold during Kerala travel.

Kerala Tourism conducts tours to fields of coconut plantation in Kochi, Paravur, Periyar, Kumarakom, Mararikulam and Thiruvananthapuram.

Coconut and Cuisine of Kerala

Coconut is an essential ingredient in many dishes from the cuisine of Kerala. For instance, Aviyal, one of the traditional Kerala delicacies, is a dish of mixed vegetables with lots of coconut gratings. Even paste of coconut gratings is used in many south Indian curries. Coconut Chutney is a principal accompaniment of south Indian snacks such as Dosa, Idli, Wada, and Mysore Bajji in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Green coconut water works as a hydrating fluid for the body. Coconut milk is used in making different sweetmeats.

Coconut water is a refreshing drink available on the beaches of India in all seasons. Sipping coconut water while taking sunbath or lying back on sands is part of a beach holiday in India.

Coconut and Cultural Life of India

Coconut has a special place in the Hindu culture of India. It is believed to be an auspicious fruit and used in many rituals on pious occasion. Coconut is offered to deities in Hindu temples across the globe. Many holy events and celebrations are inaugurated with breaking of coconuts. Both flesh and water of coconut are among the essentials for worshipping ceremonies. Earthen or copper or brass pots with green coconuts and mango leaves are put on both sides of main entrance of temples, households and workplaces on festive days. It is a symbol of prosperity and believed to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth for Hindus.

In the coastal regions of India, fishermen offer coconut to seas, expecting to catch fish in abundance. Devotees break as many as 108 coconuts at a time, at some temples of Lord Ganesh and Lord Hanuman. Coconut plays an important role in Buddhist weddings. Coconut flowers are present along with other things during marriage ceremonies in Kerala.

Offbeat Stories of Coconut

Gas warfare was initiated during the First World War. Use of gas masks became a must for survival in gas warfare. Carbon is used in gas masks to filter the air for safe breathing. Only high-quality carbon makes it possible. Carbon obtained from burning of coconut husks is used in gas mark production to filter out toxic substances in the air. More, coconut carbon is used as a cleaning material at Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

What is the most surprising fact to share on the occasion of World Coconut Day is the Coconut Palace in Manila. The Coconut Palace is named so because 70% of the sprawling structure is made of coconut lumber. Different components of coconut trees have been used in the interior décor and furnishing of the building. Ferdinand Marcos, former President of the Philippines commissioned construction of the Coconut Palace to impress Pope John Paul II during his visit to Manila.

Coconut Craft in India

Goa and Kerala have seen evolution of coconut craft in India. Gifted artists create beautiful objects out of coconut shells in both intricate and crude forms for interior décor. Handcrafted artworks from coconut shells are imperishable and exude raw elegance. Dry shells are carved in different designs and shapes to make utility and decorative items such as pen holders, wall hangings, bowls, spoons, ice cream cups, flower vase, etc. The Chandelier at Coconut Palace in Manila, the Philippines, is one of the finest items of coconut shell handicraft.

Coconut has different significances in different countries and different languages. Coconut is the tree of a thousand uses and the tree of life in the Malay language and the Philippine language respectively. The national tree of the Maldives is coconut. – Indian Eagle

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Dwarf coconut trees may fetch huge profits

PANAJI: The coconut tree has been tapped for heady liquor, feni and water as an energizing health drink, but sourcing it additionally for ‘nira’ or converting it into sugar, healthy even for diabetics, promises to revolutionize coconut farming in Goa.
A few thousands of dwarf variety of coconut saplings have already been planted in some Goan farms. It is easy to understand why these trees have the potential to ring in a revolution in just over three years, as each tree can fetch the farmer 10,000 to 15,000 per annum, several times more than the traditional variety, sources said.
A delegation led by agriculture minister Ramesh Tawadkar, director of agriculture, Ulhas B Kakode, his predecessor, Orlando Rodrigues, other officials and a few farmers are just back from a trip to Kerala, enthused about the lucrative option for Goan farmers.
“A litre of sap (nira) drawn from the coconut tree fetches 125 per litre and the sugar 350 per kg in the market,” Ramesh Tawadkar, agriculture minister said.
The sap is drawn from the coconut tree’s flower buds by cutting the blossoms. This is a more profitable option instead of growing tender or mature coconuts. “The sap is collected in ice-cold containers to prevent it from turning sour,” a source said.
Central plants and central plantation crops research institute, (CPCRI) Kerala, has introduced the dwarf variety. The state government has already given 3,000 saplings to farmers to encourage replacement of the taller varieties with the hybrid one.
Plans are afoot to organize coconut farmers into village-level groups and form a state-level coconut producers society with farmers as share-holders. “The proposal is in the initial stages and a report is being prepared,” Tawadkar said.
The farmers are likely to gain, both from sale of their products individually and as its members. “If the sap is not sold, it can be converted into sugar the same way it is made from sugar cane,” an official said.
Coconut water, as a health drink, has spawned a huge industry in this tourism destination. Distilling feni, once a big traditional occupation, is slowly dying. But, tapping ‘sur’ or ‘nira’ or converting it into sugar has huge potential. “The sap is a health drink and it has a lot of minerals and nutritive value,” A R Desai, agricultural scientist, ICAR-CCARI, Old Goa said.
The coconut sugar has a low glycemic index of 36 compared to the higher one of table sugar and is good for diabetics. “The sugar from the sap can be taken as sugar-free and is good for diabetics,” an official said.

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Coconut Tree India Stock Photos and Images

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  • Coconut tree, India
  • Incredible indian beaches, Black Beach, Varkala. Kerala, India.
  • Cocos nucifera. Indian coconut palm tree bark. Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Coconut Trees on the Shore of Scenic Kerala Backwaters at Kerala India
  • Coconut trees in tropical India
  • Cocos nucifera. Indian coconut palm tree bark. Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Coconut palm, Kerala, India, Asia
  • Coconut tree climber
  • Cocos nucifera. Indian coconut palm tree bark. Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Palm trees silhouette at the sunset, Thailand
  • Calotes versicolor. Lizard on a coconut palm tree trunk. Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Coconut palms, Kerala, India, Asia
  • Coconut palm tree frond pattern. India
  • Sunset by a beach in Kerala
  • Prepared Indian rice paddy in front of palm trees at sunrise in the Indian countryside. Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Toddy Tapping, Coconut Tree, Varkala, Kerala, India
  • close up of coconut tree; india
  • Prepared Indian rice paddy in front of palm trees at sunrise in the Indian countryside. Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Coconut Tree at Cola Beach in Goa India March 2007
  • Coconut tree, India
  • Smoke and palm trees silhouette in the indian countryside in the early morning sunlight. Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Coconut trees on a hillock at kovalam beach,kerala,india
  • Scenery of Tall and High Coconut Trees grown up and extend above the Kerala Backwaters at India
  • Smoke and palm trees silhouette in the indian countryside in the early morning sunlight. Andhra Pradesh, India
  • India, Goa State, Palolem, bungalow under coconut trees on the seaside
  • Foot of strong deft man who clumbing on coconut tree , India
  • Smoke and palm trees silhouette in the indian countryside in the early morning sunlight. Andhra Pradesh, India
  • A backwaters still captured from kerala
  • Coconut palm tree leaf pattern. India. Black and White
  • Coconut trees, Palolem beach , Goa , India
  • Coconut palm tree leaf pattern. India
  • goa coconut tree
  • Cocos nucifera. Coconut palm tree leaf pattern. India
  • Coconut crop, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India
  • Coconut palm tree leaf pattern against blue sky. India
  • Toddy Tapping, Coconut Tree, Varkala, Kerala, India
  • Ripening Coconuts on a Coconut Tree, Goa, India
  • Agricultural field with Palm tree, neem and coconut trees against the sky background
  • Coconut trees, sunny day at beach, Kerala, India
  • Detail of coconut tree, Goa, India, Asia
  • Toddy tree with pot, Orissa, India
  • Close up of large coconuts on a coconut tree near the Anjuna beach in north Goa, India
  • A coconut tree growing horizontally – photographed at the bank of Suvarna river (Udupi, Karnataka, India)
  • India, Goa State, Palolem, bungalow under coconut trees on the seaside
  • Villagers boat on Poovar Backwaters full of coconuts and fruit, Kerala, India
  • Coconut shells and coconut-fibre rope as climbing aid on a coconut tree, Kerala, India
  • Beautiful view of tropical sunset beach with bungalow and coconut palm trees at Palolem in Goa, India
  • Coconut Tree at some elevation with stairs to reach to it, in calm weather comprising beautiful landscape scenery of south india with clear blue sky
  • Coconut trees Baga Beach Goa Maharashtra India Asia September 2010
  • Long empty tropical beach with coconut palms in Kerala, India
  • goa coconut tree
  • Coconut trees along a cliff with Arabian sea; Varkala, Kerala, India
  • Sand and coconut trees on the Malabar Coast of the Arabian Sea in Kochi, Kerala, India
  • Misty Silhouette line of coconut plam trees in the indian countryside. Andhra Pradesh, India
  • Coconut Palm trees Landscape and Kerala Backwaters scenery in South India
  • Ripening Coconuts on a Coconut Tree, Goa, India
  • Morning shards of sunlight coming through palm trees in Southern India
  • egret on coconut tree at kovalam kerala malabar india
  • termite on coconut tree,india
  • A European family sitting next to a camper van under a coconut tree in Goa, India.
  • Asia, India, Karnataka, Belur, a van with coconut shells
  • man climbing tree
  • Landscape with palms trees, Orissa, India
  • Villagers boat on Poovar Backwaters full of coconuts and fruit, Kerala, India
  • Man climbing a coconut tree, Kerala, South India, India
  • Beautiful panoramic view of tropical sunset beach with bungalow and coconut palm trees at Palolem in Goa, India
  • palam tree in palakkad,kerala,india,very big like coconut tree.
  • Coconut tree farm ; Goa ; India
  • Wooden fishing boats against palm trees on Morjim beach, North Goa India
  • coconut palm tree closeup
  • Coconut tree with green coconuts; Ponnani, Malappuram District, Kerala, India
  • Coconuts on a palm tree, Kerala, India
  • Coconut trees by a fishing village in Goa,India
  • Coconut Trees on a row in between Scenic Kerala Backwaters at Kerala India
  • India,Goa,Morjim beach,sand alley and coconut trees leading to the beach restaurant la Plage
  • Coconut husk bark heart shape attached to the aerial prop roots of an indian banyan tree. India
  • Egret bird on coconut treee at kovalam kerala malabar india
  • Kovalam, Kerala, India, March 30, 2015: Unidentified man climbing to take coconuts from the tree
  • Indian man at work on a palm tree.
  • An array of coconut trees, Hasanur, Tamil Nadu, India
  • A view of the famous beach of Cavelossim beach in India.
  • Vat Savitri, women tying thread to Banyan tree. Pune, Maharashtra, India
  • Palm Tree in the Kerala Backwaters of South India.
  • Traditional Coconut Knife on the tree in Kerala Backwaters, India. This shot was made in Backwaters of Kerala, India near Kochi.
  • Beautiful panoramic view of tropical sunset beach with bungalow and coconut palm trees at Palolem in Goa, India
  • palam tree in palakkad,kerala,india,very big like coconut tree.
  • Coconut tree ; Andaman and Nicobar Islands ; India November 2008
  • Coconut picker Goa State India Date 15 06 2008 Ref ZB548 115573 0060 COMPULSORY CREDIT World Pictures Photoshot
  • coconut palm tree garden
  • Coconut trees near cliff with Arabian sea; Varkala, Kerala, India
  • Coconut harvest on palm tree, Kochi, Kerala, India
  • An Indian family of a fisherman at their home on the banks of the backwaters of Kerala in India
  • Coconut Tree on the Shores of Kerala Backwaters India
  • India, state of Kerala, Kumarakom, village set in the backdrop of the Vembanad Lake, coconuts
  • Coconut husk bark heart shape attached to the aerial prop roots of an indian banyan tree. India
  • Sunset in a coconut tree jungle
  • Kovalam, Kerala, India, March 30, 2015: Unidentified man climbing to take coconuts from the tree
  • Coconut trees in tropical India
  • Coconut Palm Tree against a red brick colonial building in Goa, India
  • A view of the famous beach of Cavelossim beach in India.

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A Palm Tree or a Coconut Tree?

Palm Trees vs. Coconut Trees…

I recently learned a coconut tree is not a palm tree.

WHAAAT?!

But a coconut tree is a tree in the palm family.

So maybe the coconut tree is like the unicorn of the horse family?

In all my years, I have never given palm/coconut trees much thought.

I mean, why WOULD I?

Now I wonder… are coconuts a fruit? A nut? A vegetable?

Let’s consult Dr. Wikipedia… It’s a DRUPE! That’s the sciency way to say the coconut is a fruit

I had a conversation with friends recently that alerted me to the fact that I had no idea there was a difference between cocnut trees and plam trees. In my mind palm trees were just fruitless drupeless coconut trees.

There are fruitless cherry trees, why not fruitdrupless coconut trees?

I should be embarrassed, but instead I find it fascinating.

I consulted Google to look at pictures to compare, but I think Google is confused too. Or palms are just a complex plant. The Wikipedia noted: “…exhibit an enormous diversity in physical characteristics.”

Kind-of like Lady Gaga.

I am thoughtfully aware now that coconut trees bear coconuts, and palm trees do not, but… when I test myself by looking at pictures… to me it’s a bit like trying to tell if a fish is a boy fish or a girl fish.

Science ruins everything.

Because when I am in Miami (that one time), I really don’t care if a palm has coconuts… I just look at those trees and feel complete…

Or when I’m back home in So Cal…

But I suppose it’s good to just know.

Or not.

Girl fish/boy fish… Unicorn/horse… palm tree/coconut tree?

An aside… I’ve never been to Hawaii. Maybe I need to go there and take a closer look… ya know ON THE SPOT RESEARCH and whathaveyou.

I suppose I should go update my life list, cross my fingers, and start playing the lottery.

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Tall and dwarf are the two main types of coconut bearing palm trees. Then there is the third variety, which are the hybrid strands developed from tall and dwarf palm trees. In the case of tall palm trees, these tend to live up to 90 years and reach a height of more than 15 meters. Similarly, tall palm trees do not require large amounts of water, grow better in coastal areas or littoral regions under 1.000 meters below sea level, and start yielding coconut fruits some eight years after sprouting. Tall palm trees are originally from the Indian Ocean region and prevalent in locations such as the Andaman Islands, Seychelles, the Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka. It is estimated that it takes about 6.000 coconuts from a tall palm tree to yield a ton of copra, which is dried coconut meat from which oil is extracted.

In the case of dwarf palm trees, they live up to 50 years and grow to a height of 5 to 7 meters. This coconut palm tree variety begins to bear fruit a couple of years after sprouting and require large amounts of water. Likewise, dwarf palm trees yield round colorful coconuts with a high oil content of approximately 65%. Dwarf palm trees are originally from the region of Southeast Asia and are particularly prevalent in countries like Malaysia. This article explores the status of agriculture in the Indian Ocean and coconut-producing nation of Sri Lanka.

Tall versus Dwarf Coconut Palm Trees in Asia

The Republic of Sri Lanka is a small island nation immediately south of the Indian subcontinent. A diverse country, the island has been burdened for decades by a violent civil conflict. With a total territory of almost 66.000 square kilometers, Sri Lanka is somewhat larger than West Virginia. Geographically, the country has over 1.300 kilometers of coastline and is mainly flat with some mountains towards the interior. Furthermore, the tropical climate of Sri Lanka is dominated by the yearly cycle of the Monsoon rains.

Currently, the island nation has a total population of more than 22 million citizens, of which approximately 1 million live in or around the capital city of Colombo. However, less than 20% of the Sri Lankan population lives in an urban setting as opposed to a rural one. The national annual gross domestic product (GDP) is of about US$220 billion (purchasing power parity) and its national economy has experienced positive growth upwards of 4.0 % in recent years. The Sri Lankan economy is divided into 9% agriculture, 31% manufacturing, and 60% services. Similarly, the agricultural industry employs 28% of the national labor force, while manufacturing employs 26% and services employ another 46%. Meanwhile, the agriculture industry utilizes 44% of the national territory, while another 29% is forested.

In terms of natural resources, Sri Lanka has limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower, and arable land. Within manufacturing, the national industry is focused on agricultural processing, tobacco, telecommunications, shipping, clothing & textiles, cement, petroleum refining, and construction. Similarly, a large sector of the Sri Lankan economy is devoted to the tourism and services industry. Meanwhile, the country’s agricultural industry has as main products rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, spices, vegetables, fruit, tea, rubber, coconuts, milk, eggs, hides, beef, and fish.

(Read more about Coconut Water Producers in Southeast Asia)

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