The coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) is a tropical plant from the palm family grown primarily for its fruit, coconuts. The tree is native to the South Pacific region and is widely cultivated in all the tropical regions of the world, growing particularly well in coastal areas. The fruit of the tree is the most utilized nut in the world and the tree itself is the most important member of the palm family, cites the University of Florida Extension website. Coconut trees have distinct growth traits.
Size and Form
The single-trunked tree has a mature height of 80 to 100 feet. The dwarf-sized varieties tend to grow much shorter. The straight, columnar trunk is light gray in color and often develops a swollen base with maturity. Certain cultivars have curved or slightly leaning trunks. The trunk diameter generally remains a consistent 10 to 13 inches from the base to the top.
Foliage and Flowers
Foliage grows on top of the trunk. The yellowish-green leaves are 8 to 18 feet long with a width of 3 to 5 feet. The tree sheds and produces 10 to 15 leaves every year. The feathery-textured foliage is pinnate and grows on 3- to 5-foot long, spineless stalks. At the age of 4 to 6 years, coconut trees start to produce flowers in the form of canoe-like inflorescences. Inflorescences are 2 to 3 feet in length. The light yellow, smaller male flowers grow at the ends of the branchlets while the larger female flowers grow at the base.
The ovoid fruit is about 15 inches long and 12 inches wide. A thick, fibrous husk covers the fruit or the nut within. The nut, which is 10 to 12 inches long, has a diameter of 6 to 8 inches with distinct sunken holes, referred to as eyes, at one end. Immature nuts have white, gelatinous flesh that gradually matures to a 1-inch thick meat called copra. The inner nut contains a watery liquid called coconut milk. Younger fruit has more milk that gradually dries to create the meat in mature nuts.
The coconut tree starts to bear fruit within six to 10 years of seed germination. The full production age is achieved at 15 to 20 years. A healthy coconut tree continues to produce a full harvest until the age of 80 years, with a count of 50 to 200 fruits per tree over the course of a lifetime. Fruit count is affected by cultivar and climatic conditions. It takes about a year for the fruit to reach maturity on tree. Coconut palms continue to flower and fruit throughout the year.