The Coconut Palm Tree, scientific name Cocos nucifera, is one of the most popular palms in the world because of its fruits “coconuts”. Coconut oil is used for cooking and in a wide range of beauty products. The Coconut Palms may live as long as 100 years, producing fruits till 80 years of age.
It’s native to Malay Archipelago or the South Pacific but not U.S. Coconut palm is one of the two palms that has been naturalized in United States despite many thinking that it’s native to Florida and Hawaii.
|Scientific name:||Cocos nucifera|
|Common names:||Malayan Coconut Palm, Coconut Palm, Green Malayan Palm.|
|Origin:||Native to the Malay Archipelago or the South Pacific.|
|Growth Rate:||Moderate. Up to 20-30 ft tall and 5-10 ft wide|
|Cold Tolerance:||USDA Zones 10b (35 – 40 F) to 11 (above 40 F).|
|Light Req:||Full sun.|
|Soil Req:||Widely adaptable|
|Fruit:||Yes. Green, yellow, orange, brown. Edible.|
|Propagation:||By seed, germinating in 4-6 months|
Coconut Palm Identifying Characteristics
Cocos nucifera has a smooth single gray trunk that is ringed with old leaf scars. Mature palms become smooth with age. Trunk is a little swollen at the base and is usually slightly curved.
It is topped with a crown of 25 – 30 pinnate, or feather-shaped, leaves that can grow up to 18 feet long and 6 feet wide. Leaves are large, about 18ft long and 6ft wide, with 200 leaflets 2ft long. Leaf life span of the leaf may be 2.5 – 3 years, and mature, healthy palms form a new one and drop the oldest one each month.
Coconut Palm Flowers and Fruits
When about 4-6 years of age, during spring the Coconut Palm starts producing sweet-scented yellow flowers. Flowers grow in clusters and are held by slightly branched stalks. Male and female flowers grow on the same inflorescence. They are generally protandrous, male flowers release pollen before females become receptive.
Flowers are followed by fruits called “coconuts”. Coconut is one of the most recognizable and most useful fruits in the world. They range in color from green, to yellow, or bronze-gold, to brown depending on maturity and variety. Fruits are oval, 3-angled, 12 inches long and 10 inches wide, with single seed inside.
There is a nut inside of the fruit, filled with a layer of white coconut “meat” and sweet watery milk. The Coconut Palm seeds are one of the largest of any plant. After maturing it takes a full year for the coconut to ripe.
Fruits start developing when plant is around 6-10 years old. Coconut Palm bares fruits all year long with an annual production around 50-200 coconuts per palm tree, depending on growing conditions and palm variety.
How To Care For Coconut Palm
In its native habitat the Coconut Palm grows up to 100 ft, but usually is around 20-30 ft tall and 5-10 ft wide in cultivation.
Coconut Palm likes warm climate and cannot tolerate temperature below 35F without getting injured. It is great for growing in USDA Zones 10b (35 to 40 F) to 11 (above 40 F).
It grows best in full sun and moist well drained soil but can tolerate drought. The average temperature should be around 72F with a lot of rainfalls.
In addition to their attractive look, this unique palm offers low to moderate maintenance. To prevent nutritional deficiency, apply good quality palm fertilizer that has continuous release formula twice a year during growing season.
“Lethal yellowing” is the most dangers disease for Coconut Palm, that is caused by a tiny organism called a phytoplasma. Early indications are premature dropping of coconuts and blackening of flower stalks.
You will also notice leaves turning yellow, starting with the lower ones and moving to the crown. Coconut Palm usually doesn’t live more than 6 months after showing first evidence of the disease.
This Palm might experience difficulties with few including spider mites, scale, palm aphid and mealybugs.
Coconut Palm Propagation
Propagated by seeds. It takes 4-6 months for germination to take place. Recommended temperature for faster germination is around 90-100F.
When Coconut seed germinates it breaks through the one of the three germinating holes that you can see on one side of the fruit.
Wait till the plant is 6 months old before transplanting it to the pot or in to the yard. You can plant this palm any time during the year, but for the best result I recommend doing it during warm rainy summer months.
Since Coconut Palms like sandy soil add 40% sand to the mix and if you transplanting it in the pot add some rocks to the bottom better drainage. Water right away after planting and apply mulch to help retain soil moist and protect from weed growth. Keep the soil lightly moist.