What is Coconut Palm?
The coconut palm is classified as a monocotyledon, belonging to the family – Palmae.
Coconut palm is widely distributed in all tropical regions, and thrives well on sandy shores.
They are frequently seen in these regions, and their widespread occurrence is due to the dispersal of the fruit by seawater.
A coconut palm reaches an average height of about 26 meters the tallest ones could reach up to 40 meters.
It displays no branching system and has a single erect trunk. Some freak palms, however, may have forked trunks.
The truck is generally smooth on the surface, with no fissures.
It has a series of horizontal rings occurring along its entire length.
It is broad at the base and tapers slightly towards the tip. The interior of the trunk contains xylem and phloem tissues and fibers.
The fibers are well-developed and more numerous on the outside of the stem than on the inside. These fibers provide mechanical support to the tree.
The trunk is not covered by bark on the outside, as in dicotyledonous trees, but instead has a protective fibrous coat.
It does not show secondary growth as it lacks cambium tissue.
The Coconut Roots
From the base of the stem arise numerous adventitious roots, some of which appear above the ground level.
The plant is not deep-root; the roots spread widely and superficially to absorb nutrients such as water and mineral salts, from the upper layers of the soil
The Coconut Leaves
The trunk carries a crown of leaves at the top. Each leaf is compound with a mid-rib, or rachis, which bears pinnately arranged leaflets.
There is no odd terminal leaflet. The mid-rib portion of the entire leaf and main veins of the leaflets are hard and stiff.
Each leaflet measures about one meter and shows a distinct parallel venation typical of the monocotyledons.
The base of each compound leaf broadens out from where the leaf base is attached to the stem, it encircles the trunk to at least half its circumference.
When the old leaves fall off, they leave a ring mark on the truck.
The distance between the two rings represents the amount of growth undergone by the stem as a new leaf is being formed.
Young tender leaves are pale yellow, but as they unfold they take on a pale green color. This deepens to a dark green as they mature.
The old leaves turn brown and fall from the stem after they have reached maturity, leaving distinct leaf scars.
The flowers appear in an inflorescence which is enclosed in a boat-shaped sheath, or spathe. The whole structure is called a spadix.
When young, the spathe is greenish-yellowing color, but turns to a golden yellow and later black as it matures.
The inflorescence is composed of many male (staminate) flowers at the apex of the inflorescence stalk, and a few female (pistillate) flowers at its
Thus, the coconut tree is monoecious. the flowers are small, actinomorphic, sessile, and unisexual.
Each male flower has six perianth lobes composed of sepals and petals, arranged in two whorls, and six stamens.
The gynoecium is reduced to an abortive pistil bearing three apical teeth containing nectary glands. the anthers split longitudinally when they are ripe.
Each female flower is cone-shaped with six perianth lobes, three being sepals and the remaining three being petals. three are two bracteoles.
The fleshy perianth lobes are folded over the pistil when young.
The fleshy ovary is superior in position, with three locules and one ovule in each locule
The stigma is extended a three erect teeth.
Six abortive stamens are found between the perianth and ovary.
The Coconut Fruits
The odorless flowers are usually wind-pollinated. They are also known to be pollinated by insects.
The flowers are protandrous so that cross-pollination is ensured. Fertilization results in seed formation in each flower.
The fruit is a drupe with a fibrous mesocarp. This fibrous mesocarp enables the fruit to float for long distances in the sea without becoming damaged.
There is only a large endosperm containing sugar, fat oil, and proteins as food reserves. The perianth lobes persist at the base of the fruit.
Germination and Growth
The developing embryo has only one cotyledon. As it germinates, the root grows out first in a download direction, while the shoot follows by growing upwards.
At the commencement of germination, a spongy absorbent organ, the haustorium (or coconut apple) grows and fills the inside of the fruit cavity.
This haustorium thus contains a rich supply of enzymes.
The growth in the length of the shoot is very slow. The shoot increases in width, however, and has the appearance of an inverted cone.
It produces a series of rather large leaves. As the leaves mature, the outer ones grow into large upright foliage leaves.
The primary root is small and is not able to absorb the necessary amount of water for the growing seedling.
Soon several roots grow out from the base of the shoot.
The stem takes about two to three years to attain its maximum girth and to produce leaves that are as large as those of a mature palm.
After this, the stem begins to grow upwards rapidly to form the upright trunk of the palm.
The coconut palm fruit throughout the year. Each inflorescence takes about four to six months to produce ripe fruits.
Economic importance of Coconut
Almost every part of a coconut palm is utilized in some tropical countries.
The wood of the trunk is used as beams for building houses.
The husk of the fruit is used for making coir, brooms and dusters, rugs, mattresses, and as fuel for domestic purposes. the ‘water’ of young coconuts is used as a beverage.
The coconut shell is used to make household spoons and ornamental curios such as piggy banks.
The mid-ribs of the leaflets are used for making stiff brooms and lobster and fish traps.
The fresh and desiccated endosperm is used domestically for cooking (in curries, biscuits,
cakes, and puddings).
The dried endosperm (copra) is used for the extraction of coconut oil, and the end product after the oil extraction is used as cattle and poultry feed.
Coconut oil is used by many countries for making margarine, synthetic detergents, and soap.
The sap that flows through the young inflorescence stalk is tapped as toddy.
Sweet toddy is used for the preparation of jaggery.
Fermented toddy is used for the preparation of the alcohol arrack and vinegar.
The dried leaves of the palm can be neatly woven to form fencing material, or thatching material the roofs of houses.
They are also used in handicrafts for making boxes, baskets, and handbags.
Freshly cut young palm leaves are also used by farmers to form leaf covers which are used as mulch this prevents erosion, excessive loss of water from uncultivated soil, and the growth of weeds.