Source: Rob Bertholf


Cocos nucifera or Coconut Palm is certainly the best known palm tree.

It probably came from Oceania but is now scattered across the globe in tropical regions, first by the floating ability of the seed that may drift long distances with currents and by humans.

It is usually found on the coast and tolerates flooding and salt water but you can find it inland where it is grown up to 1,000 m altitude.


Cocos nucifera is quite tall, up to 30 m high. The gray pseudo-stem shows the scars of fallen leaves.

The leaves are pinnate and 4-6 m long with pinnae of 60-90 cm long.

The branched inflorescences are up to 2 m long and bear both male and female flowers but not simultaneously, so that only cross-pollination occurs. Some dwarf species are auto-pollinating though. The flowering is continuous.

The fruit is a berry with one seed that we call coconut. The endosperm or copra of the coconut is edible. The fluid in the middle is liquid endosperm and also suitable for consumption. It is sweet or salty, sometimes both, and is called coconut milk. The color of the fruit is green and turns gray-brown when ripe. In a young fruit the layer of copra is thin and the coconut milk plenty. As the coconut ripens, they layer of copra becomes thicker (up to 2 cm/1″) and the amount of coconut milk diminishes.

The berry is the world’s largest berry: oval, up to 35 cm long and 30 cm wide. And the coconut is the largest seed in the world: 12-20 cm in diameter and 25 cm long.

Cocos nucifera


Almost every part of the coconut palm is useful: the coconut milk can be drunk, the copra eaten or pressed for oil, the fibers of the pulp may be braided into rope, carpets, sweepers or brushes, the leaves are used to manufacture roofs and the trunk is used as building material or for manufacturing of furniture.

The coconut palm can be over 100 years old but has only a 50 in which it is used for production.


Common names:

Bahia Coconut Palm, Coco-Do-Baia, Coconut, Coconut Palm, Coconut Tree, Malayan Coconut Palm, Nariyal, Niu


Calappa nucifera, Cocos indica, Cocos nana, Palma cocos


Cocos: given by the Portuguese navigators (Vasco de Gama) and means ghost, as the hairy nut reminded them of a ghost. Marco Polo had previously called the coconut nux indica (Indian nut), but the Portuguese word was retained.
Nucifera: from the Latin nux (nut) and ferō (bearing)


Oceania probably. Not certain as it has been cultivated by man since a long time and the seed spreads far away due to floatability.


Usually around the equator in sandy soil at the coast, from sea level to 150 m altitude


USDA zone 11, 10 °C

Cocos nucifera fruit

Source: Hans Dekker

Cocos nucifera fruit



Well drained, sandy




Water every 2 days during growing season


Fertilize regularly during growing season


Grows above 24°C, will not grow at a lower temperature and eventually die. For this reason it is difficult to keep indoors.

Cocos nucifera seedlings

Source: McKay Savage

Cocos nucifera seedlings



Sowing instructions:

  • soak the seeds 3-10 days in water at minimum 20 °C
  • place horizontally and half buried in moist soil, eventually mixed with sand. Leave one of the eyes above ground.
  • put the pot in a plastic bag to maintain moisture
  • 30-35 °C