The Common Coconut

This science article investigates the seed dispersal, germination and growth of the common coconut (Cocos nucifera.)


Fruit of the Common Coconut

In botanical terms, a coconut fruit is best described as a dry drupe.  A dry drupe has an outer fleshy skin surrounding a dry husk; the dry husk encases a hard shell; it is the hardened shell which contains the seed.

Contrast the dry drupe of the coconut with the wet drupe of a peach.

The seed (or nut) of an immature fruit contains a lot of water (also called liquid endosperm). The water provides nourishment to help the growth of the ‘meat’, or solid endosperm, inside the hard shell of the fruit.

The common coconut, one of 1500 species in the palm (Palmaceae) family, is a plant which humans use in many different ways. To quote a proverb from the Philippines;

“He who plants a coconut tree, plants pots and clothes, food and drink, a house for himself, and an inheritance for his children.”

All parts of the coconut and palm tree can be used in one form or another. These are just a few of the many uses of the Cocos nucifera:

Leaves are woven to make roofs for houses….

Pollen is dispersed from male to female flower by the wind or by insects. It is the female flowers which grow into coconuts. With natural pollination, 50 to 70% of the fruits either fall off or never mature into adult fruits. Once pollinated it takes 12 months for the female flowers to develop into fully mature fruits.