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Cocos nucifera - L.

Common Name Coconut Palm, Coconut
Family Arecaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Commonly found along tropical seashores, sometimes extending inland on alluvial plains with a high water table, but avoiding waterlogged soils[ 297 ].
Range Pantropical.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Cocos nucifera Coconut Palm, Coconut

Cocos nucifera Coconut Palm, Coconut


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Coconut, cocus nucifera, is a monoecious large palm of about 30 m tall with long pinnate leaves that break away cleanly leaving the unbranched trunk smooth. The fruit is a drupe comprised of three layers: the exocarp, mesocarp (coconut husk), and the endocarp. The root system of coconut is fibrous. There is a dwarf variety. It is known as the tree of life for all of its plant parts has a wide range of uses. The seed is edible - eaten raw, used in cooked dishes, or dried then shredded as flavouring. Coconut milk or cream is commonly used as ingredient in many African and Asian food and bakery products. The seed also yields edible oil that is used in cooking, making margarine, shortening, filled milk, ice cream, confectionaries, etc. Coconut juice is a popular refreshing drink. The inflorescence is cooked as vegetable. Further, it yields a sugary sap which can be fermented to make an alcoholic beverage. The apical bud is edible as well but harvesting it will kill the trunk. The roots of coconut tree are roasted and used as a substitute for coffee. The pith of the stem is made into bread, added to soups, or pickled. Furthermore, coconut is widely used in traditional medicine. The seed oil is rubbed onto stiff joints and used in the treatment of rheumatism and back pain. Coconut milk, on the other hand, is used to treat fish poisoning. Coconut juice is drink to treat kidney problems. The root is used to treat stomach pains and blood in the urine. Coconut fibre or husk is widely used in making peat-free composts and as mulch. When burnt, it is used as fertilizer. The oil is used in making soap, detergents, cosmetics, candles, etc. The leaves are interwoven and used as thatching materials or in making baskets and mats. The midribs of leaflets are made into brooms. The roots may be used as a toothbrush. Coconut seed shells are used as cups, bowls, musical instruments, etc. or made into charcoal. The wood is used for the structural framework of houses, poles, furniture, and parquet flooring.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Cocos nucifera is an evergreen Tree growing to 25 m (82ft) by 7 m (23ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Wind. The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid, very alkaline and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Calappa nucifera (L.) Kuntze Cocos indica Royle Cocos nana Griff. Diplothemium henryanum F.Br. Palma

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Fruit  Oil  Root  Sap  Seed  Stem
Edible Uses: Coffee  Condiment  Drink  Milk  Oil  Sweetener

Edible portion: Nut (Seed), Sap, Cabbage, Nut milk, Apple, Palm heart. Seed - raw or cooked[ 297 ] A very versatile food, being eaten raw and used in a wide range of cooked dishes. The seed is often dried then shredded to be used as a flavouring in cakes, curries etc[ 297 ]. Coconut milk or cream, which is pressed from the mix of freshly grated seed with water, has been a traditional ingredient in many African and especially Asian food and bakery products, and is becoming more widely known[ 299 ] The flesh inside a half-ripe seed is gelatinous and clear in colour, it is eaten as a delicacy either raw or cooked[ 63 ]. An edible oil can be extracted from the seed. It is widely used in cooking, making margarines, shortening, filled milk, ice cream, confectioneries etc[ 297 , 299 ]. The oil is traditionally extracted by grating the kernel, macerating with water and boiling it - the oil floats to the surface and is skimmed off[ 63 ]. Most oil, however, is obtained by pressing the kernel[ 63 ]. The liquid inside unripe fruits is a delicious refreshing drink[ 297 ]. It is cool even on a hot tropical day[ 61 , 297 ]. Inflorescence - cooked and used as a vegetable[ 301 ]. A sugary sap can be obtained from the stalk of the inflorescence[ 297 ]. It is obtained by tapping or cutting the stalks of young flower bunches[ 63 ]. This sap can be fermented into an alcoholic beverage[ 300 ]. Apical bud - raw[ 301 ]. Eating this bud effectively kills the trunk since it is unable to produce side branches[ 301 ]. The roots are roasted and used as a coffee substitute[ 301 ]. The pith of the stem is made into a bread, added to soups or pickled[ 301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antidiarrhoeal  Antirheumatic  Aphrodisiac  Cytotoxic  Diuretic  Dysentery  Emetic  Emollient  
Hypotensive  Kidney  Poultice  Purgative  Skin  Vermifuge

The coconut is widely used in traditional medicine, where it is ascribed a very wide range of applications[ 311 ]. The seed oil is cytotoxic, emetic, emollient, hypotensive and purgative[ 311 ]. The oil is rubbed onto stiff joints[ 311 ]. It is also used to treat rheumatism and back pains or as an ointment to maintain smooth, soft skin[ 311 ]. Mixed with turmeric, it is used to treat sick new born infants and women who have just given birth[ 311 ]. To place a baby from a breech to a normal position in the mother?s womb, the abdomen is massaged with coconut oil[ 311 ]. Coconut milk is diuretic[ 311 ]. It is used to treat fish poisoning[ 311 ]. The juice from a green coconut is given to women who have difficult pregnancies[ 311 ]. Juice from the fruit is taken to treat kidney problems[ 311 ]. The root is employed in treating stomach-ache and blood in the urine[ 311 ]. It is boiled in combination with Ruellia tuberosa root and used as a treatment for bladder ailments and as an aphrodisiac[ 348 ]. In Fiji, weakness after childbirth is treated with liquid extracted from the stem[ 311 ]. Juice from the midrib at the lower base of the leaf is used in treating maternal postpartum illness[ 311 ]. In New Guinea, sores and scabies are treated with parts of the plant[ 311 ]. A poultice made from the apical bud is used externally to treat ulcers[ 348 ]. The coconut is said to have vermicide properties[ 311 ]. Haemorrhaging is stopped with the use of the dry, spongy kernel[ 311 ]. In the Solomon Islands, diarrhoea and dysentery are treated with parts of this plant[ 311 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Basketry  Beads  Broom  Brush  Buttons  Charcoal  Compost  Containers  Cosmetic  Fibre  Filter  Fuel  Furniture  Lighting  Mulch  Musical  Oil  Potash  Roofing  Scourer  Soap making  String  Stuffing  Thatching  Wood

Landscape uses: Seashore, Specimen, Street tree. Agroforestry Uses: The fibre around the seeds is widely used in making peat-free composts where it replaces the peat[ K ]. The burnt husks form a useful sort of potash that is used to fertilize the trees[ 303 ]. The husks also make valuable mulch for moisture conservation in the dry season and help to suppress weeds[ 303 ]. Other Uses An oil obtained from the seed contains fatty alcohol and glycerine[ 303 ]. It is widely used in making goods such as soaps, detergents, cosmetics, candles, pharmaceuticals etc and to a lesser extent as a lubricant[ 63 , 297 , 303 ]. The oil can be used as a substitute for diesel oils, for electric generating plants and motor vehicles. This use, however, depends on the price of other fuels being high if it is to be economic[ 303 ]. The leaves are interwoven and used as a roofing or thatching material for walls of huts[ 63 , 297 ]. They can also be woven into mats, baskets etc[ 297 ]. The midribs of the leaflets are used for brooms[ 63 ]. The root may be used as a toothbrush[ 311 , 324 ]. The fibrous material that surrounds the seed is known as coir[ 63 ]. There are three types of fibre obtained from the husks:- Mat fibre or yarn fibre. This is used in making mats. Bristle fibre. This is used for brush making. Mattress fibre. Used in stuffing mattresses and in upholstery. The fibre can also be used for making ropes and cordage[ 63 , 297 ]. The hard, woody shell surrounding the seed can be used as cups, bowls, in craft work, buttons, combs, bangles, musical instruments, etc[ 63 , 324 ]. Coconut-shell flour, obtained from grinding clean, mature coconut shells to fine powder, is used as a filler in the thermoplastic industry and as an abrasive for cleaning machinery[ 303 ]. A good quality charcoal is made from the shell of the seed[ 63 ]. It gives off an intense heat when burnt[ 63 ]. The charcoal is very absorptive and has been used in gas masks[ 63 ]. Coconut-shell charcoal may be processed further into activated carbon that has many industrial applications, including general water purification, crystalline sugar preparation and gold purification[ 303 ]. The high moisture content of the wood and the difficulty of splitting it has made it relatively unpopular as fuel[ 303 ]. The trunk of palm trees has its hardest and most wood-like portion towards the outside of the stem, the inner portion being very fibrous. The outer portion of the coconut stem is a widely used source of timber in the tropics[ 297 ]. The stem is red-brown with a coarse texture and straight to entangled grain. The outer portion is hard, heavy, but not very durable. It seasons slowly, with a slight risk of checking, but a high risk of distortion; once dry it is moderately stable in service. It has a high blunting effect, stellite-tipped and tungsten-carbide tools are recommended; nailing and screwing are good, but require pre-boring; gluing is correct. The wood has traditionally been used in tropical countries for the structural framework of house[ 303 , 848 ]. Coconut timber taken from the lower and middle parts of the trunk can be used for load-bearing structures in buildings, such as frames, floors and trusses[ 303 ]. Coconut trunks can be used for poles, as they have great strength and flexibility. The wood can also be used for high quality furniture and parquet flooring[ 303 , 848 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Global Crop  Industrial Crop: Fiber  Management: Standard  Other Systems: Homegarden  Other Systems: Multistrata  Staple Crop: Oil  Staple Crop: Sugar

Coconuts grow well in lowland tropical regions as far as 26° north and south of the Equator and up to a maximum elevation of around 1,000 metres[ 297 ], though most commercial cultivation takes place within 20° of the Equator and below 300 metres[ 200 ]. They grow best in areas with a high rainfall[ 297 ]. Plants succeed in moist tropical climates where temperatures never fall below 10c, the average annual rainfall is 1,500mm or more and the driest month has 25mm or more rain[ 297 ]. The coconut palm thrives in a wide range of soils, from coarse sand to clay, so long as the soils have adequate drainage and aeration[ 303 ]. Requires a well-drained soil with a high water table[ 297 ]. Plants grow well in full sun, even when small[ 297 ]. Plants can tolerate at least some maritime exposure with salt spray and somewhat saline soil conditions[ 297 ]. Coconut palms are halophytic and tolerate salt in the soil well[ 303 ]. Plants are intolerant of drought[ 200 ]. Coconut can grow in soils with a wide range of pH but grows best at pH 5.5 - 7[ 303 ]. Coconut palm is one of the most widely grown tree crops in the tropical countries[ 303 ]. Its growth characteristics are ideal for small production and also for combining with other crops. The crown morphology and the relatively wide spacing facilitate the planting of a wide spectrum of field crops in coconut plantations[ 303 ]. It has therefore been intercropped with cereals (cassava, sweet potatoes, yams) or fruits (bananas, passion fruit, pineapples and ground nuts) in many countries[ 303 ]. Very occasionally a small pearl-like concretion, or 'coconut pearl', is found in the cavity of the nut. Generally about the size of a canary's egg or even that of a cherry, they are white or bluish white in colour with a pearl-like lustre and harder in texture than a pearl[ 63 ]. Made almost entirely of a form of lime or calcium carbonate, they are greatly prized and often used in jewellery[ 63 ]. The tall varieties reproduce by cross-pollination[ 303 ]. Male flowers open first, producing pollen for about 2 weeks. Female flowers are not usually receptive until about 3 weeks after the opening of the inflorescence, making cross-pollination the usual pattern[ 303 ]. Reproduction in dwarf varieties is generally through self-pollination[ 303 ]. Female flowers are receptive about a week after the male flowers open, both ending at about the same time[ 303 ]. Tall palms tend to be slow maturing, flowering 6 - 10 years after planting and with a life-span of 80 - 100 years[ 324 ]. Dwarf palms begin bearing in their third year and have a productive life of 30 - 35(-40) years[ 324 ]. The trees flower and fruit all year round. A new inflorescence is produced every month, whilst the fruit takes a year to mature[ 324 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Crop shade  Plants providing crop shade especially trees.
  • Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world. The annual value of each is more than $1 billion US Examples include coconuts, almonds, and bananas.
  • Industrial Crop: Fiber  Clothing, rugs, sheets, blankets etc. Currently, almost none of our fiber are produced from perennial crops but could be!
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Other Systems: Homegarden  Tropical multistrata agroforestry (multi-story combinations of trees, crops, domestic animals in the homestead).
  • Other Systems: Multistrata  Multistrata agroforests feature multiple layers of trees often with herbaceous perennials, annual crops, and livestock.
  • Staple Crop: Oil  (0-15 percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Some of these are consumed whole while others are exclusively pressed for oil. Annuals include canola, poppyseed, maize, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut. Perennials include high-oil fruits, seeds, and nuts, such as olive, coconut, avocado, oil palm, shea, pecan, and macadamia. Some perennial oil crops are consumed whole as fruits and nuts, while others are exclusively pressed for oil (and some are used fresh and for oil).
  • Staple Crop: Sugar  Perennial sugar crops include sugarcane and compare favorably to annuals.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - Fresh seed germinates readily at 27 - 30°c[ 200 ]. The seed has no dormancy, and growth of the embryo and seedling is continuous. Germination may begin while the fruits are still attached to the palm[ 303 ]. For seed propagation, nuts are collected from selected mother palms or special seed gardens[ 303 ]. Tissue culture is a popular method of vegetative propagation for producing a large number of progeny[ 303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Coconut, cocus nucifera. Other Names: coconut palm; copra. Spanish: coco de agua; cocotero; palma de coco; palmera cocotera; palmera de coco. French: coco; cocotier; cocoyer; noix de coco Chinese: ye zi Portuguese: coqueiro. American Samoa: niu. Brazil: coco da India; coco de Bahia; coco-da-bahia; coco-da-’ndia; coqueiro; coqueiro-da-bahia; coqueiro-da-’ndia; inai‡-guau’ba;Cambodia: d'ong. Caribbean: cocos; cocospalm; klapperboom. Cuba: coco blanco; coco indio; coco morado. Germany: Kokosnusspalme. India: narikel; nariyal; narlu; thengu; yubi. Indonesia: kelapa. Italy: cocco. Laos: phaawz. Lesser Antilles: cocotier; noix de cocos. Malaysia: kelapa. Netherlands: Kokospalm. Northern Mariana Islands: nizok. Philippines: iniœg; lubi; niog; niy—g. Sweden: Kokospalm. Thailand: ma phrao. Vietnam: da.

TROPICAL ASIA: Indonesia, Papua, Papua New Guinea, Maluku, Philippines, PACIFIC: Vanuatu AUSTRALASIA: Australia, Queensland,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

A great capacity for natural dispersal with the nut surviving up to 120 days floating in sea water and germinating when they make landfall. Once established in new coastal areas, C. nucifera can grow forming dense monospecific thickets. In addition to its great dispersal ability, C. nucifera has high germination rates, and nuts have no dormancy and do not require special treatments to germinate, which are also elements facilitating its establishment and spread into new habitats. Some evidence of invasiveness in Puerto Rico.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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