Cocos nucifera

Common name

coconut palm

Description

Stem: Solitary, usually leaning or curving, but can be erect, to 25 m tall and 30 cm in diameter, gray to brown in color, with ridged leaf scars, and a bulging base. Leaves: Pinnate, reduplicate, to 7 m long, with regularly arranged leaflets spreading in a single plane, held stiffly at first, but eventually drooping. There are no spines, but the leaf sheaths have matted fibers that resemble woven, burlap-like fabric. Flowers and fruit: Inflorescence 1-1.5 m long and branched to one order. Staminate and pistillate flowers are produced on the same inflorescence and may be cream to white in color. The pistillate flowers are large, leathery and spherical in bud; staminate flowers are smaller, leathery, and asymetrically ovoid. Fruits are up to 20 cm in diameter and 30 cm long and yellow to brown when mature.

Diagnostic features

Field: This is perhaps the most well-known palm species. This graceful, solitary palm has coconuts.

Lab: The underside of Cocos nucifera leaflets have small tan to brown ramenta along the midrib and tiny brown scales fringed with white.

May be confused with

There are many named cultivars that can be difficult to separate. Identifying cultivars, varieties and subspecies is beyond the scope of this tool.

Distribution

This species is cultivated in coastal areas througout the tropics and some sub-tropical countries. Its origin is uncertain and historically has been debated, but it is most often suggested to be from tropical areas of the Pacific.

Additional comments

Cultivated throughout the tropical world, usually at low elevations, as a crop and as a landscape ornamental.

Scientific name

Cocos nucifera L.

Family

Arecaceae/Palmae

Synonyms

Palma cocos Miller

Last Updated May 2014

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