Coconut palm
Coconut plantation

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Cocos nucifera, coconut


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cellular organisms - Eukaryota - Viridiplantae - Streptophyta - Streptophytina - Embryophyta - Tracheophyta - Euphyllophyta - Spermatophyta - Magnoliophyta - Liliopsida - commelinids - Arecales - Arecaceae - Arecoideae - Cocoseae - Attaleinae - Cocos - Cocos nucifera

Palm trees (Arecaceae) at GeoChemBio
Palm crown Taxonomy
General description
Ecology and habits
Pictures of palms in Florida
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Brief facts

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Growth stages (life cycle)

Life Cycle Stages

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Growth conditions and ecology


The coconut palm is a true tropical tree and cannot withstand cool or cold weather. A mean annual temperature of about 68 °F is necessary, and the optimum annual temperature is 80 °F or higher. Most of the lands which meet these temperature requirements are located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, exclusive of the highland regions.


The coconut palm requires heavy rainfall. The tree can survive and produce a little fruit with an annual precipitation of as little as 40 inches, but for optimal growth a yearly rainfall of at least 60 inches and more is needed. Because the tree stores little moisture and it lacks a tap root the rainfall must be distributed evenly throughout the year. However, the coconut palm may thrive in areas with a prolonged dry season provided that the ground-water level remains high.

Tropical rain


For best results the following conditions are necessary: (1) a loose, porous soil, preferably sand or alluvium (heavy clay soils are detrimental to growth and yields); (2) a continuously high water-table; (3) rapid and continuous movement of ground-water (stagnant ground-water is very injurious to the palm).
The most common place where these conditions are simultaneously met is along seashores backed by highlands. Porous sandy beaches experience rapid and constant movement of ground-water caused by the ebb and flow of the tide, and are the last to react to a period of drought by a lowering of the water-table.

Coconut palms grow along the tropical coasts throughout Latin America. This scene is typical of the Caribbean.

Beach with coconut palms


Severe windstorms are common in many coconut-growing regions. For the naturally evolving Cocos high winds and rain assist dissemination of the fruit and, by destroying many or all of the bearing palms, allow the next generation to establish and outnumber the survivors. As a result, phenotypes that help palms to withstand hurricanes are not necessarily selected in nature.

Where coconuts are cultivated, windstorm is a disaster, destroying a source of food, drink, shelter and fuel on which man came to rely. Any palms that survive will be chosen to produce the next generation. This leads to selection for a larger root system recognized at ground level by a larger bole and increased trunk girth, i.e. cultivated coconuts gradually diverge from wild ones.

Plantation and pasture integration

The integration of livestock with tree crops in general and with Cocos nucifera in particular for increasing field productivity is practiced widely in the humid tropics. It has been suggested that if only half the tree crop area could be integrated, then the livestock population of the humid tropics could be increased by some 25% without utilizing any new land.

Coconut plantation and pasture integration

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Anatomy of coconut fruit

The coconut is a fibrous drupe. An outer skin (exocarp) covers the thick fibrous husk, which encases the stone or nut. Exocarp in immature fruit is green. The nut is formed by the fusion of three carpels which are represented by three ridges on its surface. Only one of the fused carpels develops into the mature coconut but each of them is represented by an "eye" at the proximal, or stem, end of the nut. Two of these eyes are hard and smaller than the third. The embryo is located under the larger and soft eye, which connects with the milk-containing cavity of the nut.

Coconut fruit

The nut consists of a shell (endocarp), a seed coat or testa (located between the shell and the meat), oil-bearing meat and liquid milk. The fruit endocarp usually is presumed to protect the developing seed from predation, desiccation, or crushing.

Cracked coconut fruit

Cracked coconut fruit

Coconut seedlings.

Coconut seedling

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Processing of coconuts in small family buisness operation in Dominican Republic.

Processing of coconuts

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