Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Unranked Angiosperms
Unranked Monocots
Order Arecales
Family Arecaceae
Genus Cocos
Species C. nucifera
Binomial name Cocos nucifera

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the coconut are JATAPHALA, KALPAVRIKSHA, MAHAPHALA and TENNAI - MARAM.


Coconuts provided the only source of food and water on many of the atolls across the equatorial Pacific, and the natural distribution of coconut may have influenced the initial colonization of the region. Coconut palms have been used since ancient times as a source of food, fiber, fuel, water, and shelter, and many of these uses are still important today.

Coconut oil was one of the first, if not the first plant oil to be used by man, and was the leading vegetable oil until 1962 when eclipsed by soybean oil. The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera L., is undoubtedly the most economically important plant in the family, as it is used as both an ornamental and a food crop. The name Cocos probably derives from a Portuguese word meaning monkey, perhaps because its nut, bearing three germinating pores, resembles a monkey face. Its specific name derives from Latin, meaning nut-bearing.


Trees are typical single-trunked palms, reaching up to 100 ft in height, but generally 20-50 ft in cultivation. Leaves are among the largest of any plant (up to 20 ft), pinnately compound with 200 or more leaflets, and borne in a spiral arrangement at the apex of the trunk. Separate male and female flowers are borne in the same inflorescence, which is a compound spadix arising in the leaf axil. Flowers are off-white to gray or yellow, and inconspicuous.

They are generally protandrous, meaning that male flowers release pollen before females become receptive. Flowering occurs continuously, since each leaf axil produces one inflorescence, and new leaves are produced approximately monthly. Coconuts are large, dry drupes, ovoid in shape, up to 15" long and 12" wide. The exocarp or skin is green, yellow, or bronze-gold, turning to brown, depending on cultivar and maturity. The mesocarp is fibrous and dry at maturity; the product coir is derived from this layer. The endocarp is the hard shell enclosing the seed. Seeds are the largest of any plant, and have a thin brown seed coat. Seeds are filled with endosperm, which is solid and adherent to the seed coat, and also in liquid form, called "milk". Copra is derived from the solid endosperm.


Native to tropical eastern regions, today it is grown over the Asian continent (India, Ceylon, Indonesia) and in Central and South America (Mexico, Brazil); in Africa, the largest producing countries are Mozambique, Tanzania and Ghana.


The coconut palm thrives on sandy, saline soils; it requires abundant sun light and regular rainfalls over the year. Coconut has been reported to tolerate high pH, heat, insects, laterites, low pH, poor soil, salt, sand, and slope.


Sprouting palms and growing palms from seed. To start a coconut from the seed, you want a freshly fallen brown-dry (somewhat shrunken) nut with the outer fibrous husk intact. Get a 3-gallon pot. Use high quality nursery soil mixed with 40% coarse sand. Add drainage rocks to the bottom of the pot. Lay your coconut husk on the ground and see which way it wants to rest. Plant your coconut husk 1/2 way into the soil in the same position .You can leave the pot in the sun or the shade. Water lightly to keep very lightly moist. Partial shade will likely be more successful. The first time we started a coconut from seed it took 9 nine months to sprout. It is common for many palms to take many months to sprout. Don't over water as you'll rot them out .A coconut often will first split its husk at the bottom and send down some roots. It may take several months before your coconut also splits the top of the husk pushing up its first fronds. Every one is a little different. Your nut may split the top first After your coconut spouts, your coconut can live in your 3-gallon pot for about 3-6 months. After that, plant it in another larger pot or directly into the soil. Incorporate lots of manure. Fertilize properly starting after sprouting 3 fronds.

Flowering Season

The coconut palm is monoecious i.e. the male and female flowers are produced on the same inflorescence.

Pests and Diseases

Coconuts are subject to numerous fungal diseases, bacterial infections, and the most serious virus-like disease, cadang-cadang. Coconut trees are also attacked by numerous nematodes and some insect pests, the most damaging insect being the black beetle or rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros), which damages buds, thus reducing nut yield, and breeds in decaying refuse.Porroca is a lethal disease of coconut (Cocos nucifera) emerging in Central America.

Parts Used


Coconuts are used as whole fruits or, conversely, by their parts: mesocarp fibres, milk, kernel (or flesh), husk for their medicinal and commercial applications.

Medicinal Applications


• Coconut oil works wonders for burns, cuts, bruises, and even speeds the healing of broken bones.

• Palm kernel oil is considered a health tonic and is the first medicine of choice among the native population regardless of the illness.

• Coconut oil raises your metabolic rate, helping to release energy and promote weight loss.

• Adding coconut oil to your diet has been reported to increase energy, balance hormones, and stimulate the thyroid gland.

• The cholesterol-lowering properties of coconut oil are a direct result of its ability to stimulate thyroid function.

• Coconut oil is readily absorbed into the skin, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

• The coconut oil will aid in exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin cells, making the skin smoother.

Commercial Applications


• The raw copra can be grated and squeezed to obtain coconut "milk".

• Coconut water is obtained from immature coconuts, providing a welcome source of fresh, sterile water in hot, tropical environments.

• The sap from the cut end of an inflorescence produces up to a gallon per day of brown liquid, rich in sugars and vitamin C.

• It can be boiled down into a brown sugar called "jaggery", used as a sugar substitute in many areas.

• Left to ferment, the sap makes an alcoholic toddy, and later vinegar; "arrack" is made by distilling the toddy, and is a common, potent alcoholic spirit.

• Its leaves are used to make baskets, roofing thatch etc.; apical buds of adult plants are an excellent palm-cabbage.

• Coconut fiber, called "coir," was famous for being employed for matting, mattress filling, cordage and the like.

• Shell is hard and fine-grained, and may be carved into all kinds of objects, as drinking cups, dippers, scoops, smoking pipe bowls, and collecting cups for rubber latex.

• Charcoal used for cooking fires, air filters, in gas masks, submarines, and cigarette tips.

• Shells burned as fuel for copra kilns or housefires. Coconut shell flour used in industry as filler in plastics.

• Dried, desiccated, and shredded it is used in cakes, pies, candies, and in curries and sweets.

• When nuts are cut open and dried, meat becomes copra, which is processed for oil, rich in glycerine and used to make soaps, shampoos, shaving creams, toothpaste lotions, lubricants, hydraulic fluid, paints, synthetic rubber, plastics, margarine, and in ice cream.

• Copra is the dried meat of the seed and is the main source of coconut oil, also known as coconut butter.


According to the astro reports the coconut tree is governed by the celestial body Venus.

Cultural and Religious Significance

The coconut fruit is considered highly auspicious and is an essential part of many Hindu religious ceremonies and festivities. It is believed to be symbolic of good fortune and prosperity. The fruit is in fact referred to as 'Sriphala' or the fruit of Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity. The association of human fertility cult with coconut is prominently manifested during wedding rituals across India. The fruit is often placed in a pot which is a metaphor for the womb, while the nut itself, a symbol or life, confers fertility on the bridal couple.

In Gujarat it is customary for the bride to present the coconut to the groom at the time of the marriage. The coconut is then preserved as a precious memento by the husband throughout his life. Fishing communities along the peninsular coasts believe in appeasing the sea God (Lord Varuna) with offerings of coconut during the monsoon. On the fifteenth day of the bright fortnight of shravana, fishermen especially in Maharashtra celebrate the festival of 'Nariyal Purnima'. On this day fishermen paint their boats and decorate them with flags. With much rejoicing they throw coconuts into the sea, with prayers for a plentiful fish catch.

Folklores and Myths

The coconut palm is one of nature's wonders. Every part of the tree is useful in one way or another. From this tree, we can derive everything necessary to sustain life. In the Philippines and the islands of the Pacific, coconut is called the 'tree of life', 'tree of heaven' or 'tree of abundance', reflective of its essentiality to everyday life in the tropics. In India the coconut tree is eulogized as 'Kalpavriksha' - a mythological tree supposed to grant all desires. Since ancient times the tree has been used in our country as a source of food, drink, fibre, fuel, etc., many of which are still important in present times.

In Valmiki Ramayana, there are several references to the coconut and the coconut-eating vanaras in the Kishkindha and Sundara Kandams. According to Hindu mythology, the coconut was created by Sage Vishwamitra to prop up King Satyavrata who was attempting to gain entry into swargaloka (heaven) as a mortal but was thrown out by the Gods. There is a popular legend in Kerala that the coconut was originally a deva vriksha (tree of the heaven). It is believed to have been brought down to earth by Lord Parashurama for the prosperity of the people of the Malabar coast. The coast thus came to be known as Kerala literally meaning the 'land of coconuts'.