Coconut tree characteristics

This article was endorsed by Julián Masats - Technical agricultural engineer specialized in horticulture and gardening.

What is coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) ?

Characteristics of coconut

coconut palm

A drawing of coconut palm

Common English name: Coconut plant, coconut, cocoanut.

Common names in other languages:

– Spanish: Coco, cocotero común, palma de coco.

– Portuguese: Coco, coqueiro, coco de Bahia (Brazil)

– French: noix de coco, cocotier, coconut.

– Italian: Cocco

– German: Kokosnuss

– Swedish: Kokosnöt

– Russian: Kokos

– Chinese: Yeh Tzu

– Japanese: Kokonatto

– Arabic: Al-Hind Hauz

Scientific name: Cocos nucifera L. The etymology of nucifera refers to the palm that produces nuts. Cocos nucifera is the only species in the genus Cocos L.

Family: Arecaceae or also called Palmae.

Where do coconut trees live?

Coconut treee origin is unknown, although it is a palm native to Malaysia and Indo-Pacific area.

Currently naturalized in all the world’s tropical coasts.

In Philippines, it is is a very abundant plant and you can see fully inhabited islands with coconut groves.

Description of Coconut

Coconut palm is a slender palm tree widely distributed throughout the tropical regions, with a size that can vary between 12 to 30 meters high.

The trunk of the coconut tree is a cylindrical stipe, thin (20-30 cm in diameter) often tilted, brown or brownish-grey, showing the circular leaf scars from the old leaves when they fall down.

The palms, which, evolutionarily, are more primitive plants than trees, rather than a trunk, they have a structure called stipe. The stipe is characterized by not branching out and keeping the same diameter from below to its terminal tip, so they do not usually have much thickness. On its surface the distinguished “marks” produced by the petioles of fallen leaves appear, known as circular leaf scars, which are very characteristic of the palms.

At the end of the stipe, we find the palm leaves, that are born in what it is called a crown or acrocaulis. Its leaves are sheathed by an erect long petiole. They are placed in an alternate way, being characteristically pinnate or palmate, glossy green of colorful, 2-6 meters long.

Each inflorescence is a branched flower cluster (panicle), located at the base of the leaves. Its flowers, male and female (monoecious), can be white to pale yellow.

The female flowers are rounded, with two wide basal scales, 3 wide and rounded sepals, 3 white rounded pale petals and a yellow pistil with 3 cell ovary and 3 stigmas.

The male flowers have small and pointed white sepals, oblong petals and 6 stamens.

Fruiting occurs throughout the year, and the fruit is a drupe with a dry fibrous mesocarp popularly known as coconut. Coconut fruit has an ovoid shape, constituted by 3 angles and 3 germination holes at the end, with a size between 20 and 30 centimeters in diameter.

Coconut fruit consists of a brown fibrous bark and a hard shell, booking a seed inside. The central cavity of the fruit has an aqueous or milky liquid called coconut water that is a nutritional mixture aimed for coconut to grow.. When the fruit ripens, this fluid accumulates fat and it is called coconut juice or milk.

A mature tree can produce 75-200 coconuts per year, and each coconut can weigh between 1.5 and 2.5 kg.

The seed of the coconut palm is the second largest known, after the coco-de-mer (Lodoicea maldivica), that can reach 40–50 cm in diameter and weigh from 15 to 30 kg. The seed of coconut is hollow inside and it is covered with a white pulp, oily and edible.

Coconut uses

Coconut has been used historically as a medicinal food: It is said to have analgesic, antirheumatic, antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hypotensive and immune stimulating properties.

Its oil also has numerous cosmetic applications

Composition of coconut palm

This is the main composition and active compounds of this plant. The edible part of the fruit is the seed of the plant.

Composition of coconut palm

(Cocos nucifera L.)

Component Amount

(en ppm.)

Carbohydrates 94.000 – 331.000
Proteins 32.000 – 77.000
Fats 58.400 – 719.000
Fiber 30.000 – 115.000
Ash 9.000 – 22.000
Coconut minerals and dietary minerals
Phosphorus 830 – 2.400
Magnesium 770
Calcium 76 – 476
Sodium 145 – 626
Aluminium 7,20
Iron 23 – 33
Copper 3,2 – 33
Manganese 9 – 21
Rubidium 16
Zinc 13 – 17
Boron 3 – 5,20
Strontium 2,8
Nickel 2,10
Iodine 0,30
Cobalt 0,20
Chromium 0,20
Antimony, barium, cesium, mercury, europium 0,10
Cadmium, molybdenum, tungsten 0,03
Arsenic, Selenium 0,02
Vanadium 0,004
Scandium 0,002


Picture of a coconut seed, where you can see the three germinative holes and the oval structure of the indehiscent seed, consisting of three angles.

Botanical classification
Kingdom Plantae
Subkingdom Tracheobionta

Vascular plants

Superdivision Spermatophyta

Seed plants

Division Magnoliophyta

Flower plants

Class Liliopsida


Subclass Commelinidae
Order Arecales
Family Arecaceae o Palmae
Subfamily Arecoideae
Tribe Cocoeae
Subtribe Butiinae
Gender Cocos
Species C. nucifera L.

punto rojo More information on coconut .

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

22 April, 2019

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Botanical-online is an informative page that describes, among other topics, the traditional uses of plants from a therapeutic point of view. Their descriptions do not replace professional advice. Botanical-online is not responsible for self-medication and recommends consulting with the physician.