School Science Lessons
Please send comments to: J.Elfick@uq.edu.au
Table of contents
See websites: Coconuts
1.0 Introduction to the coconut project
13.0 Care of the seedlings, diseases and pests
17.0 Coconut oil
18.0 Coconut palm structure
19.0 Coconut plantations
10.0 Collecting seed nuts (fruits) for planting
15.0 Copra, Making copra
2.0 Cultivars, coconut varieties
12.1 Field planting of seedling
6.0 Flowers, inflorescence
8.0 Fruit growth and development
24.0 Growing Coconuts in south Queensland
by Tony Robinson
3.0 Leaves, phyllotaxis, life of a leaf
25.0 Makapuno (philippine) coconuts,
kopyor (Indonesian) coconuts
1.1 Names of coconuts
1.2 Origin and distribution of coconuts
7.0 Pollination and fertilization
11.0 Propagation, pre-nursery and nursery
4.0 Stem, trunk
23.0 Submission by Mike Foale to “Food
for Health, A Guide to Healthy Eating”, National Health and Medical Research
Council of Australia
23.1 Submission to Australian Heart
Foundation, by Mike Foale
22.0 "The coconut palm - voyager, nourisher
and beautifier of the tropical world", by Mike Foale, University of Queensland
9.1 Tissue culture
12.2 Transplanting seedlings in polybags
20.0 Understanding the records
16.0 Uses of the coconut palm
13.0 Care of the seedlings,
diseases and pests
13.1 Good and bad breeds
13.3 Fertile soil, soil deficiencies, fertilizers
13.4 Weeds and weed control
13.5 Diseases and pests
16.0 Uses of the coconut palm
16.1 Selecting a coconut
16.2 Dehusking and opening coconuts
16.3 Opening drinking coconuts for the coconut water
(coconut juice, liquid endosperm)
16.4 Opening mature coconuts for the coconut "meat"
16.5 Grating coconut meat (kernel, endosperm)
16.6 Make coconut cream and coconut milk
16.7 Make coconut oil
16.8 Coconut toddy, palm wine, (arrack), kava
16.9 Coconut leaves (fronds)
16.10 Coconut shell-based products and wood-based
16.11 Coconut husks, coir
16.12 Coconut trunk
16.13 Heart of palm
16.14 Sprouting coconuts
16.15 Coconut cake stock feed
16.16 Coconut oil as a biofuel
16.17 Coconut cooking
16.18 Desiccated coconut
16.19 Copra and its products
18.0 Coconut palm structure
Cocos nucifera, Coconut palm, (kelapa Malaysia), Old world tropical
plant, Family Arecaceae (Palmae)
Cocos nucifera, cv. Dwarf, Dwarf coconut palm, horticultural
plant, Family Arecaceae (Palmae)
The coconut palm, has no tap root, no root hairs, no cambium, no bark
and only one growing point (apical meristem).
18.1 Roots (adventitious roots)
18.2 Stems (trunks)
18.3 Leaves (fronds)
18.4 Inflorescence (flowers)
18.5 Seed and fruit (drupe)
1.0 Introduction to the coconut project
1. The aim of the coconut project is to teach students how to grow coconuts
well to produce a high yield. The yield could be calculated in coconuts
per unit of labour or yield of copra per hectare.
2. Copra and virgin coconut oil are very important export crop commodities.
Two kinds of growers make copra and coconut oil, the big foreign owned
plantations and the small plantations owned by villagers. Plantations run
by villagers may not produce as much as they could. The aim of this teaching
unit is to show students how they can increase production in village plantations.
They can only learn these things if they do them.
3. To teach this project, use the following:
3.1 A coconut plantation near the school. Ask the owners for permission
to gather seed nuts from about one hectare of coconut palms.
3.2 A small sunny area in the school grounds for a pre-nursery and a nursery.
Palms must not shade this area. Build a small fence around the area to keep
out horses, cattle or goats if they are near the school.
3.3 Build a copra drier that also can be adapted to drying for virgin
oil production. The best drier for your project is a small hot air drier.
For a start, use a sun drier, but this document does not recommend continual
use of it.
3.4 For raising seedlings in plastic polybags, get 40 bags from the Department
3.5 Prepare to take students outside to see coconut palms that have many
fruits, only a few fruits, and no fruits.
3.6 The coconut palm gives us food, drink, and building materials. Coconut
palms may have many fruits or few fruits if they are overcrowded and over-shaded.
Very old palms produce few fruits.
1.1 Names of coconuts
The coconut palm has the scientific name Cocos nucifera L. (The
"L" after the name just means that the name was given it by the Swedish
naturalist Linnaeus, 1707-78). It is a monocotyledon in the palm family,
Family Palmae. The word "cocos" is Macau Portuguese language for monkey because
the 3 germination pores (the "eyes") look like a monkey's face. The word
"nucifera" means "bearing coconuts". In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit
the words for coconut palm mean "tree of life" or "tree that supplies everything
needed for life". The cells are diploid, 2n = 32. Coconuts are divided into
"Tall palms", var. typica, that are cross pollinated and heterozygous, and
"Dwarf palms", var. nana, that are self-pollinated and homozygous. The French
word for dwarf, nain, is used for Dwarf palm coconuts, e.g. "nain rouge",
"nain jaune" and "nain verte" for red, yellow and green Dwarf palms. In the
western Solomon Islands, the word for coconut is "ngohara". Throughout Polynesia
the word for coconut is "niu". The best known varieties are "niu vai", a
large fruit supplying lots of water, and "niu kafa", a large elongated fruit
rich in long fibres used for making ropes. Also, "niu papua" is a small-fruited
red Dwarf palm found in French Polynesia. It was probably brought there from
Papua New Guinea by missionaries. One Hindi name for coconut begins with
"kalpa" so it may be linked with "kelapa", the word used in the Indonesian
language. Long ago, people from India came to what is now Indonesia and perhaps
brought their name for coconut that changed with time.
1.2 Origin and distribution of
Coconuts probably grew originally in South Asia, Malaysia and Polynesia.
The Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama took coconuts to the Atlantic Ocean
in the 15th Century. Spanish navigators took coconuts to the Caribbean
region in the 16th Century. Some islands in the South Pacific region already
had coconuts growing on them when the Polynesian peoples brought their own
special varieties when they populated the islands, travelling by canoe. Polynesians
introduced coconuts to Hawaii in the 12th century. Coconuts were introduced
to the Atlantic region by the Portuguese. They were brought from the Indian
Ocean in 1498 by Vasco da Gama's expedition and in the 1500's, the Portuguese
established coconut palms along the West African coast, on the Cape Verde
archipelago and on the coastline of Brazil. Coconuts had been introduced
to the West Indies by 1582. Commercial planting of coconut palms began in
the mid-l800's and was linked to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire
in 1835: high labour crops such as sugar cane and cotton were in some areas
(e.g. the Seychelles) replaced by low labour coconut plantations. Palms in
large commercial plantations of the Indo-Pacific region (e.g. Philippines)
now outnumber by a large margin those growing wild.
2.0 Coconut cultivars (coconut varieties)
See diagram 53.2: Coconut varieties | See 19.3: Tall coconuts and Dwarf coconuts
A cultivar is a cultivated variety, i.e. a natural variety selected for
agriculture. The natural home of the coconut is the coarse textured sandy
soil near the beach, reached by king tides and tidal surges. Coconut palms
need a daily mean temperature above 21oC and 120 hours of sunshine
per month to grow to maturity and produce full rounded fruits. The main
varieties of coconuts are Tall palms, "Talls", and Dwarf palms, "Dwarfs".Usually,
the talls are slower to produce, have large and abundant fruits but are susceptible
to lethal yellows disease. The dwarf varieties are earlier, and fruits are
smaller, but trees are resistant to lethal yellows. Hybrids are the best.
2. Tall palms
Tall varieties, the most common in commercial production, are slow to
mature, grow to 20 -30 metres, have thicker trunks, larger crowns and bigger
fruit. They have 3-sided egg shape coconuts. They flower 6-10 years after
planting and produce coconuts for 60 -70 years or longer. Tall palms have
a big bole at the base of the trunk. They include the Solomon Islands Tall
palm with about 25 to 30 leaves and green or brown coconuts. The Rennell
Islands Tall palm has the bottom of the trunk without a rounded bole but
swells out at the bottom. It has a few very large coconuts on each bunch.
The "hundred coconuts" variety has many small coconuts on each bunch. Other
Tall palm varieties include the Rotuman Tall palm, Fiji Tall palm, Kiribati
Tall palm, and Samoan Tall palm. The Tall palms are divided into two groups:
2.1 The "wild" Tall palms are still found on some remote islands and have
angular fruits, up to 15 cm in diameter, with a thick husk and shell.
2.2 The "domesticated" Tall palms that have a larger rounded fruit, up
to 25 cm diameter and thinner husks caused by human selection. Coconuts
from both groups can float. Coconut "seed" is classified as "drift seed"
and the coconut palm is classified as a "strand plant", because it grows
in colonies around the fringes of tropical beaches.
The tree evolved in the Indonesian archipelago and grows throughout the
Pacific because of its buoyant fruit remaining viable up to six months.
Seeds wash up on tropical island shores where they start germinating at the
upper limit of wave reach. Male and female flowers are on the same plant,
(monoecious), so a single coconut seed can start a new colony..
3. Dwarf palms
Dwarf varieties, the result of domestication, have no bole at the base
and the trunk is thinner so they are more easily damaged by strong winds.
They grow to 8 -10 metres. They flower three years after planting and produce
coconuts for 30 to 40 years. Although more difficult to grow, they bear
earlier than Tall varieties and are resistant to lethal yellowing disease.
The leaf scars are close together on the trunk.
They are self-pollinated, so if you find a Dwarf palm bearing many fruit,
these will be good for seed nuts because they have the same father and
mother. Pure Dwarf palms are not used in plantations because the coconuts
are too small and the meat (kernel, endosperm) is soft and difficult to
separate from the shell.
The Dwarf palms are divided into three groups:
3.1 The stumpy or Niu Leka Dwarf palm of the Pacific islands has small
medium sized coconuts used for drinking.
3.2 The Village Dwarf palm of the Pacific islands has small elongated
3.3 The Nias Dwarf palm from Indonesia and Malaysia has medium size fruit
with distinct green, brown and orange colours.
4. Crossbreeding has developed many hybrids between
Tall palms and Dwarf palms. Hybrids are grown in plantations for their
high production. Hybrid palms come from crossing of two different varieties,
e.g. a Tall palm father and a Dwarf palm mother. The hybrid palms are shorter
than the Tall palms so there are fewer risks from coconut fall. They can
be harvested at maturity with a knife on a long stick or by easy climbing,
instead waiting for the coconuts to fall to the ground.
5. Visit coconut plantations or wild stands of coconuts
near the school. Look for Tall palms and Dwarf
palms, different kinds of Tall palms, wild and domesticated Talls palms
and hybrids. With permission, collect coconuts from the different kinds
of coconuts then draw and measure them.
3.0 Leaves, phyllotaxis, life of a leaf
See diagram 53.3: Leaf life cycle
1. The first leaves produced by the seeding have a single vertical leaf
blade (spear leaf) consisting of leaflets joined at the edges. The lamina
of the first leaves are without any toothing or division, i.e. entire lamina.
A seedling has about 10 entire leaves. Later the lamina of the entire leaves
separate into leaflets caused by splitting between the leaf veins to form
a compound leaf, i.e. a frond or pinnate frond. The palm bears the fronds
at the top of the palm in a terminal radiating crown. Note when the first
frond forms because this happens sooner in Dwarf palms, and is a way to
identify Tall palm and Dwarf palm varieties. The parts of the frond are the
leaf base, leaf stalk (petiole), midrib (rachis), and leaflets (pinnae).
Each side of a frond has about 100 leaflets. The bottom of the frond stalk
has a broad leaf base with a cushion on the underside connected to the trunk,
and a keel or thick body to strengthen it. The leaf stalk is grooved on
the upper surface. Bits of fibre are attached to each side of the leaf base
to form a fibrous sheath. To conserve water, leaves have a waxy leaf surface
2. The arrangement of fronds on the trunk reduces
the shading of lower fronds by fronds above, so that each frond shares
the sunlight and no frond is completely shaded. Each frond is arranged
on the trunk at an angle of 140o from the next in age above
and below it. The sequence around the circle of the trunk is as follows:
2.1 (0o) 2. (140o) 3. (280o) 4. (420o,
i.e. 360o + 60o) 5. (560o, i.e. 360o
+ 200o) 6. (700o, i.e. 720o- 20o).
So starting from one frond and looking upwards, the next five will make
two turns around the trunk and the fifth leaf will be 20o from
being directly above the frond where you started looking. This arrangement
is easier to see by looking at the leaf scars on the trunk. Count the total
number of fronds because you can relate this to the general health of the
coconut palm and the number of fruit it can
produce. This arrangement of fronds (phyllotaxy, phyllotaxis) is described
2.2 The frond starts as a tiny lump in the bud of
the palm. It comes out a vertical "spear" (a fibrous leaf sheath) at the
top of the palm after about 20 months. The flower bunch (inflorescence)
appears after about another 5 months in the axils of the leaves. After
about another year, a little longer in a cool season, the fruits are ripe
and fall off. The total life time of the frond is about 2 years. As the
frond grows older, especially on palms that bear many fruits, it bends
down through an angle of about 160o before it drops off. A mature
palm drops about two coconuts per week. Palms make a new frond every 22 to
30 days. Healthy coconut palms may make 14 to 17 fronds in a year. A typical
mature coconut palm has about 30 leaves at any one time. As the young palm
develops the fronds become longer and quicker to emerge so that after 5 years
the length is 7 metres in Tall palms and 3 metres to 5 metres in Dwarf palms.
The leaves are attached to the top of the stem in a terminal crown of 25-30
leaves surrounding the terminal bud.
2.3 Stand to one side of a palm to do this. Stand
under a Tall palm. Look up at the arrangements of the leaves. To count
the number of leaves on a coconut palm, stand next to the oldest leaf near
the ground and look up to see the number of fronds almost directly above
it, in a right hand or left hand spiral. So you have counted every 6th frond.
Note that on older palms the lower fronds hug the trunks and do not touch
the upper fronds that often hang farther out and curve down.
2.4. Count the leaflets on each side of the frond,
about 120 leaflets (pinnae). Count the number of fronds and number of fruits
on different palms. Note whether palms with more fronds have more fruit.
Measure the length of the frond, 4-6 metres, and the maximum length of the
leaflets, 50-120 cm. Note the arrangement of the leaflets with reference
to the position of the sun. Motor cells in the midrib can change their angle
to the sun.
2.5 The number of leaves in the crown of a mature
palm remains almost constant over the years, with about 10 mature leaves
with mature fruit bunches, 10 mature leaves with developing fruit bunches
and 10 developing leaves. A mature leaf remains on the palm for about 3
years then is replaced by a developing less mature leaf. In addition to
these leaves is the single terminal apical bud (coconut "cabbage").
4.0 Stem, trunk
See diagram 53.4: Trunk of coconut
4.1 In Tall palm varieties, e.g. Solomon Islands Tall palms, the bottom
of the trunk swells out to form the bole. A bole is where the roots come
out so a big bole gives a broad grip on the soil. The bole should not be
on top of the soil so bury it by putting the seedling in a hole deep enough
for the soil to cover the nut. The Dwarf palm does not form a bole so the
diameter is much the same along its trunk. Their narrow diameter at soil
level means that their grip of the soil is less secure than with a Tall palm.
Mature Dwarf palms have about half the trunk height of Tall palms of the
same age. Dwarf palms have shorter fronds and so a smaller crown. The trunk
is usually curved, probably a result of response to light.
4.2 Leaf scars occur where the leaf base and attached
fibrous sheath clasp the trunk, so the scars come from detached leaf sheaths.
The leaf base partially encircles the trunk. The attached fibrous sheath
encircles the trunk. The thick leaf base of the leaf stalk (petiole) makes
the thicker part of the leaf scar. The fibrous sheath, once joined to the
sides of the leaf stalk at the leaf base, forms a circle around the trunk
and makes the thinner part of the leaf scar. You can examine the scars on
the trunk to learn much about the life of the coconut palm. Leaf scars are
far apart if the palm grew fast, especially in the early period before fruit
production. Leaf scars are close together in Dwarf palm varieties, e.g.
the Malayan Dwarf palm, or if the Tall palm is growing in bad soil or has
experienced droughts. The scars get closer together as the palm grows older.
4.3 Note any steps cut into the trunk and marks
made by fire or a bush knife. Such damage is important because the coconut
palm has no cambium in the trunk to repair damage and the trunk of a mature
palm cannot get any thicker. The trunk of a mature Tall palm is flexible
enough during strong winds to bend without breaking, but the trunk of a Dwarf
palm may snap. The trunk may have a bend in it from being blown over by a
strong wind and then growing straight again.
4.5 The fronds make 14 to 17 new scars every year
so to find the age of a coconut palm, count all the scars on the trunk
and divide by 14 to 17.
4.6 The coconut palm has only one apical meristem,
the growing point. The trunk is not obvious for the first few years until
the apical meristem grows to its final diameter. The trunk eventually grows
to about 20 metres high in 50 years and may reach above 30 metres in 80
years. In older coconuts producing many coconuts, the internodes (gaps between
the scars) become shorter to give more plant nutrients and energy to the
coconuts. So the bases of the upper fronds push outwards on the leaves those
older fronds below forcing them to "rotate" downwards progressively with
age resulting in a spherical shaped crown. At the end of the life of the
palm the trunk narrows to a "pencil point". Tall palm trunks standing bare
with no crown may be caused by lightning strike or the result of health decline
due to age. The trunks of Tall palms grown closest to the ocean lean out
towards the ocean because the light reflecting off the
surface of the ocean attracts the plant. The lean is strongest when the
coastline is close to a north south direction.
4.7 The leaf scars circling the trunks show where
the petioles of fallen leaves joined the trunk. About 15 leaves fall each
year so you can count the scars to estimate the age of the palm. On the
upper middle of each scar is another scar left by the peduncles (stalks of
the fallen inflorescences). Examine a scar where a fruit bunch was joined
to the top of the leaf scar. Count the frond leaf scars left by of one year's
See diagram 53.5: Roots
5.1 The young coconut first has a group of roots, about 10 mm in diameter,
growing from a base below the growing bud. Later an inverted cone shape
of roots forms. At this stage the coconut palm can be blown over but at 6
years 12 mm diameter roots radiate out from the periphery of the trunk base.
These roots may branch to form smaller secondary and tertiary roots. Coconut
palm roots do not have root hairs.
5.2 Most of the roots are in the top 90 to 120 cm
of soil but they have great strength and provide a firm anchor to the soil.
Sometimes the wind or the tide removes sand away from around the base of
the palm and then you can see some roots.
5.3 The main roots are up to 12 mm thick and are
strong and woody except close to the growing end that is white or cream
in colour. As a root continues to grow at the tip for several years, you
can see a sequence of age and appearance along its length starting from the
pale tip through reddish colour, then brown, then dark brown. The palm continuously
makes main roots. As old roots die, new roots grow out from the bole, but
they live a long time and some may be 50 years old. Each main root has a
pointed root cap about 1 cm long. Behind the root cap is about 100 mm of root
that can absorb water, but farther back the outside becomes hard and it does
not absorb water. The roots are adventitious roots and may grow to a length
of 6 metres. There is no tap root. The roots cannot penetrate compacted subsoil
or penetrate below the water table and rot easily if waterlogged for a long
5.4 Just beneath the soil surface both large and
small roots develop small whitish lumps, especially if the soil is really
wet. These soft lumps are special "breathing organs" (pneumathodes). They
are modified rootlets to help air enter the roots. Many thinner lateral
roots branch out from the main roots. Short rootlets grow out from the lateral
5.6 Use a spade to uncover some main roots or dig
up a seedling. Note the colour of the main roots. Look for small white
lumps. Find the end of a main root to see the root cap. Find some lateral
roots and rootlets.
6.0 Flowers (inflorescence)
See diagram 53.6.1: Sheath and spadix | See diagram 53.6.2: Male flower and female flower
6.1 Tall palms usually crossbreed but Dwarf palms usually inbreed, so
Tall palms have greater genetic diversity than Dwarf palms. A coconut palm
is monoecious (bears male and female flowers). Crossbreeding depends on
whether male and female flowers on the same branch are active simultaneously.
Pollen may be shaken from the male flower to the female flower or may be
carried by the
wind or insects.
6.2 In ideal conditions, Dwarf palms, e.g. Malayan
Dwarf palm, may start to make flowers when they are only three years old,
or five years in a long dry season. However, Tall palms may take three
years longer and may not make flowers until five to ten years after transplanting.
Each year about twelve bunches (inflorescences) form in each leaf axil
at the base of each frond, with many male flowers on the upper section
of the branch and few female flowers on the lower section of the branch.
All the flower bunches on one palm will always hang out of the same side
of the leaf stalk, either right or left. A spear-like green tube or sheath
formed from a bract (spathe or spadix) encloses the flower bunch. It takes
a long time to make a flower bunch. When it is 2 years old and developing
but not visible, the spathe emerges in the frond axil and splits, releasing
the flower bunch. Each flower bunch has a central stalk (rachis) with many
lateral branches. On each lateral branch are about 20 female flowers at the
base and more than 200 male flowers on the upper part. The newest flower
bunch is associated with the frond that has reached the 8th to 10th position
down from the youngest emerging leaf.
6.3 The male flowers, single or in twos or threes,
has a pale yellow perianth (sepals and petals) in two whorls of three.
Inside each male flower are two whorls of three stamens, i.e. six stamens
that make the pollen. A honey gland (nectary) attracts insects. The male
flowers at the tips of the flower bunch branches open first and shed their
pollen followed by male flowers on the lower sections over the next 3 weeks.
6.4 The female flowers are much larger than the
male flowers. You see them as 2-3 cm diameter knobs close to the near end
of the lower branches of the flower bunch. Most of this size comes from the
three thick woody sepals wrapped around the fleshy flower within. If you
cut these knobs away, you can see the small nut-shaped ovary inside. At first
you see only the sepals. The inner flower expands to expose its tip shaped
like a cone on which three stigmas separate and exude a sugary sap from three
stimulates pollen to germinate and extend the pollen tube down into the
ovary. Each inflorescence bears only a few female flowers because most
fall off in the first two months. So each inflorescence bears 3 to 6 fruits
to maturity. You find them with a pair of male flowers at the base of the
branches. Most of the male flowers are borne singly or in pairs towards the
branch tips. As the flowers contain nectaries and are sweet scented, they
may attract insects for pollination, e.g. flies and honey bees. Coconut honey
is found in some places. However, the pollen is light and dry, so wind pollination
may also occur. The male flowers mature and wither before the female flowers
become receptive, a sequence called protandry. So the male flowers in the
same inflorescence cannot pollinate the female flowers. This arrangement
ensures cross pollination between different palms.
6.5 Some people want to remove all inflorescences
and immature and mature coconuts from a single coconut tree, but worry
whether a new inflorescence will later form and how long it will take.
The coconut palm produces an inflorescence with every frond, but the inflorescence
emerges about one year after the frond itself emerges. If 14 fronds are
produced each year, that is also the number of
inflorescences that would emerge. No matter what you do to the emerged
inflorescences, and the bunches that develop, new inflorescences will keep
emerging every 26 days or so. The interval from inflorescence emergence to
mature fruit would be 12 months, so a complete removal of all inflorescence
now would require 12 months to elapse before the first new mature fruit would
be available. Removing inflorescences results in the palm growing taller
faster, because the energy that would have gone into the flowers and fruit
is diverted into extension of the trunk. This elongation of the newly forming
trunk results in the crown of the palm being less compact allowing many more
fronds to sustain a fairly upright position to help form a spherical crown.
6.6 Use coconut flowers and a sharp knife to examine
a young flower bunch (inflorescence).
1. Open some male flowers to find the 6 stamens. Count the stamens in
2. Examine a young female flower and an older flower from another flower
bunch to see the opened stigmas.
3. Cut away the wooden sepals and petals from a female flower to see the
nut-shaped ovary inside. Be careful! Use to use a sharp knife.
4. Cut across the ovary to see the 3 ovules inside. Only one ovule is
fertilized and becomes a young plant (embryo) seen in a socket in the meat
7.0 Pollination and fertilization
See diagram 53.7: Fruit growth ("nut growth")
7.1 In Tall palm varieties the male flowers open and shed their pollen
before the female flowers open. So Tall palms usually need pollen from another
palm. They must be cross-pollinated. If fruit does not set on a solitary
palm, e.g. in a home backyard or school, monitor the female flowers on the
active flower bunch (inflorescence) until you see that the flowers are receptive
to pollen. Then take from another palm a branch of an inflorescence that
is shedding pollen and shake it close to the female flowers on your palm
to achieve pollination. The Dwarf palm self-pollinates because it still sheds
pollen when the female flowers are ready. However, some pollen may be carried
to a female flower by the wind or insects, e.g. flies, wasps and honey bees.
Insects that carry the pollen do not fly very far. If you pick up a nut
under a mother palm, the pollen that fertilized that mother palm probably
came from a nearby palm. So do not gather seed nuts from under one good mother
palm if poor bearing palms are nearby. Gather seed nuts from where a group
of high bearing palms are growing. Also, do not select mother palms only
from areas of better soil.
7.2 After the male flowers have shed all the pollen,
the female flowers become "pollen ready". The pollen is carried to the
female flowers by falling from the male flowers if a Dwarf palm or carried
by insects or wind if a Tall palm. The female flowers of isolated Tall
palms may not receive any pollen because the time for pollen shedding and
the time for being pollen ready are different. However, most Dwarf palms
self-pollinate because the timing of the male and female active phases overlap.
7.4 When the pollen is carried to a female flower
and it lands on the stigma, it germinates in the sugary liquid there and
extends its pollen tube down to enter the egg inside the ovary of the female
flower. There it transfers DNA to the egg that merges with the DNA of the
egg (fertilization). When pollen fertilizes a female flower, it can then
grow into a fruit that has an embryo with the DNA from both parents. It takes
about a year for the fruit to grow. Some young fruits fall off the flower
bunch while they are still small. This "button shedding" may occur because
an insect, the "nut fall bug", puts marks on the small button by sucking out
some sap. A coconut inflorescence has knob-like female flowers. Tall palm
pollination can occur only when all the male flowers have been shed and the
female flowers have increased in size and have begun secreting "honey dew".
7.5 There is no commercial source of coconut pollen
but scientists can freeze-dry pollen and store it for months. Test the
viability of pollen by observing how much germinates in a dilute sucrose
and gelatine solution at field temperature.
8.0 Fruit (coconut) growth of the fruit
See diagram 53.7: Fruit ("nuts")
8.1 The fibrous husk may be more than 50 mm thick and is firmly attached
to the shell. The husk provides buoyancy, water resistance, and cushions
the fall of the fruit on rocks. The thick low density husk absorbs water
very slowly so it allows the coconut fruit to float for up to 4 months in
saltwater and still germinate on dry land. The coconut fruit develops for
12 months and becomes a mature seed when the husk dries.
8.2 The mature fruit of the coconut palm is a 3-sided
fibrous dry drupe. It contains the largest seed although larger fruits
exist, e.g. the compound fruit of the breadfruit, Artocarpus altilis,
of the Pacific islands. The round "coconut" sold in shops is a dehusked
fruit. It consists of the coconut milk, and "meat" (kernel, endosperm) and
hard stony shell (endocarp) that encloses the seed. The meat is about 45%
water, 35% fat, 10% carbohydrate sugars and 5% protein. The reddish brown
fibre (mesocarp or husk) and outer smooth skin (rind, exocarp) have been
removed. When a seed germinates "in the wild" on the upper beach sand, the
meat (kernel, endosperm) sustains growth until the roots can grow down to
find freshwater below the sand. The new shoot can grow up through the husk
and develop eaves that capture energy through exposure to the light. The
whole fruit has two ends, the stalk end and the outer end. The stalk end
has a stalk scar (hilum) where it was attached to the bunch. Some coconuts
are round, but most coconuts of Tall palms have 3 sides defined by three
ridges along the length of the fruit. You call the side flatter and broader
than the other sides the broad side. The stalk scar is usually closer to
the broad side than to the other sides.
8.3 Fruit development goes through several stages.
After 6 months it has reached its full diameter but contains no meat (kernel,
endosperm) just a cloudy solution. A nut with internal diameter 100 mm contains
25 mL of "coconut water" when the meat (kernel, endosperm) has not yet
developed. At 8 months the meat (kernel, endosperm) appears first as a soft
jelly on the inside of the shell. The meat (kernel, endosperm) progressively
hardens through a rubber texture at 10 months to become solid and crisp at
12 months. It ranges in thickness from 9 to 15 mm depending on variety and
soil fertility. You can snap a piece of it with your fingers. During maturity
the fruit loses water by evaporation through the shell leaving an airspace
that you can detect by shaking the coconut and listening for a "sloshing"
sound. As the fruits mature, the coconut water (liquid endosperm) tastes
sweeter with a slight almond flavour because it becomes more concentrated.
The fruit takes 12 -13 months to mature and weighs 1.2 to 2.0 kg. So at any
time a palm may have all stages of development, from opening flower to ripe
coconut. The mature fruit contains by weight 36% husk, 12% shell, 28% "meat"
(kernel, endosperm) and 25% water. A typical coconut shell is about 130 mm
in diameter and nearly spherical, with a pointed spike at the bottom and three
“eyes” at the top. The coconut palm reaches full production after 10-15 years,
then may bear up to 100 fruits per year for more than fifty years, then fewer
fruit until it dies after about 90 years.
8.4 The coconut palm needs plenty of water, sunshine
and a temperature of at least 22°C. most of the year. Provided these
conditions, it sends its gracefully curved, branch less trunk 12 - 30 metres
into the air. Its top is crowned with feather- like leaves, flowers and
developing nuts. The leaves may reach a length of 3 metres feet. They have
a strong midrib from which long leaflets grow, giving the feather like appearance.
Small ridges divide the inner nut into 3 parts. One part is wider than the
others. The "active eye" where the seedling grows out is the eye in the widest
part of the nut.
8.5. Use 6 ripe fruit and a bush knife. Husk one
fruit. See the 3 "eyes" (germination pores) of the nut consisting of two
plugged pores and one soft fuctional pore (germination pore). Find the embryo
just beneath the one "soft" eye. The two "false eyes" have hard shell behind
them. The "active eye" is closest to the broad side of the husk. Remove
the husk from the stalk end of a nut only so that you can confirm the position
of the active eye to be closest to the broad side of the husk. This is important
because if you plant a seed nut in the pre-nursery broad side up, the seedling
shoot has the shortest distance to push through the husk when it germinates.
Cut another nut lengthwise. Note whether the inner nut is closest to the
stalk end or the outer end of the husk. The stalk scar is closest to the
broad side of the nut. Draw an end view of an inner nut to show the 3 eyes
and the 3 ridges. Draw an end view of a fruit partly husked to show that
the active eye is closest to the broad side of the husk.
See diagram 53.9.0: Germination | See diagram 53.9.1: Germinating fruit with mesocarp
9.1 Germination occurs when the shoot comes out of the active eye. Roots
form on its lower side. A tough narrow "beak" forces it way upwards through
the husk and emerges to reach the outside world 4 to 8 weeks later depending
on the temperature of the environment and the thickness of the husk. During
this period you cannot see the growing shoot inside the husk. A dehusked
nut can germinate in a sealed plastic bag containing water that provides
a humid atmosphere. The shell can be regarded as part of the seed part of
the fruit because any blemish in the shell is fatal before or after germination.
9.2 The tubular single cotyledon remains inside
the fruit. The outer end of the cotyledon elongates and so that the growing
embryo is pushed through the largest eye ("soft eye", "active eye"). The
plumule then the radicle grows out of the cotyledon sheath into the mesocarp
(husk fibres). The plumule forms scale leaves and pushes out through the
mesocarp and breaks through the exocarp (outer skin) as a shoot and the first
leaves form. Only a small portion of the cotyledon emerges from the seed
as a swollen body abutting near the seed surface, called the button. The
radicle and plumule emerge from the bottom and top of the button. The first
seedling root, the radicle, is usually narrow and very short lived and is
quickly replaced by roots formed at the seedling stem base, the adventitious
roots. The first stages of germination occur cannot be observed without de
husking the nut because they occur in the fibrous fruit wall that sticks
to the seed.
9.3 The end of the cotyledon closest to the meat
(kernel, endosperm) grows inside to make an organ of spongy tissue (haustorium,
"apple", "egg"). The haustorium remains inside the seed, dissolving and
absorbing food from the endosperm. It takes about 4 months for the haustorium
to expand to almost fill the cavity of the seed, except in very large coconuts.
The haustorium absorbs the coconut water within two months of germination.
Nutrients supplied via the haustorium are the sole source of biomass for
the shoot and roots
until the first green leaf unfolds. The haustorium will continue to supply
biomass for 12 months or more until the solid endosperm is exhausted. The
haustorium contacts the entire inner surface of the meat (kernel, endosperm)
in all but the biggest coconuts, and releases enzymes to digest the nutrients
in the kernel. The haustorium conducts nutrients from the meat (kernel,
endosperm) to the seedling during the 3 months between germination and the
emergence of the first green leaf. In a mature fruit the cavity is never
full of water, generally about 75% full in freshly mature and diminishing
after that. By the time that the haustorium is well formed and roots are
functioning, the water has all been absorbed. The secretion of enzymes to
lyse ("dissolve"), the solid endosperm continues, with the aid of water from
9.4 Several primary roots eventually emerge from
the husk into the soil. The hygroscopic husk supplies adequate water to
these roots before their emergence. The fibres and spongy pith of the husk
can hold enough water to give the plant some water until the roots can find
water in the soil. The radicle does not usually die, and adventitious roots
grow as branches from the primary roots. The radicle may die but adventitious
roots from the nodes of the shoot grow down through the husk and into the
soil. So the first roots appear outside the seed nut after the shoot has
appeared. Side branching roots begin to grow out from the main roots and
extend into the bulk of the husk.
9.5 Visit the pre-nursery one week after planting
and every week after this first visit. As shoots begin to emerge, transfer
these coconuts to the main nursery in weekly batches.
1. To increase speed of germination, slice the outer skin from the lower
side of each seed nut (fruit) and remove a small patch above the active
2. Use some seed nuts that have just germinated. Use a knife or an axe
to cut these open carefully. Try to cut through the place where the shoot
is coming through the eye. The embryo is beneath the soft eye at the top
of the nut. There is no embryo under the two blind eyes.
3. Remove the covering of leaves. Examine the coconuts for signs of germination,
i.e. lift the coconuts to see if any roots are coming out. Then water the
4. Examine the seed nuts every day. Organize a competition for who can
find the first germinated seed nut. Keep a record of dates of early germination.
5. When any seed nuts have germinated, lift them and plant them in the
nursery. Put the earliest to germinate at one end of the nursery so you
will have a sequence in the nursery of earliest to germinate to latest to
germinate. Cut down any coconuts from Dwarf palms that have germinated while
still attached to the palm.
9.1 Tissue culture
Tissue culture of coconuts is used to produce new varieties with better
genotypes by growing particular embryos or cloning new varieties with better
genotypes. The two tissue culture techniques are embryo culture and clonal
propagation. Embryo culture involves collecting embryos, culturing them
on a medium and incubating them under sterile conditions. Clonal propagation
involves collecting and culturing somatic tissues, e.g. immature inflorescences.
Nowadays, embryo culture is more used, mainly for growing rare mutant coconut
varieties with tasty or aromatic jelly-like endosperm. The efficiency of
clonal propagation is still unsatisfactory despite more than 40 years of
research into using it to propagate coconuts on a commercial scale. A big
problem is the lack of “transportability” of germ plasm between widely separated
Embryos can be dehydrated for 8 hours without genetic damage by cryopreservation.
They are grown in a medium not containing sucrose to stop microorganism
infection. Embryos 10-11 months after pollination are the best for prepartion
from zygote tissue resistant to lethal yellowing. Elevated carbon dioxide
levels are used to promote seedling growth.
10.0 Collecting seed nuts (fruit) for planting
1. Tall palm seed nuts are cross-pollinated. The mother of a coconut is
the palm it falls from, but the father is another palm close to it. So
the place to gather good seed nuts is a place where you find many good
palms growing close together. Do not gather seed nuts from a high bearing
coconut palm if this palm has many poor bearing palms near it.
2. Find a place to collect seed nuts where many good palms grow close
together. Remember that high production because of favourable soil will not
be passed on to the progeny of those palms.
3. Pick up every nut you can find. You do not know the age of these coconuts
lying under the palms, so use them just to make copra but do not use them
for your coconut project.
4. Two weeks later, go back to the same place and pick up the coconuts
which fell since you were there last. Now you know the age of these coconuts
for none are more than two weeks old. Take these coconuts to your coconut
5. Examine the collected coconuts. Shake every nut and listen for a sloshing
sound. If you cannot hear a sloshing sound, discard this nut because lack
of nut water means that it will not germinate. However, lack of a sloshing
sound could also be due to germination having already taken place but the
shoot not yet emerged and the water being absorbed. If it is clear what
side of the fruit was sitting in contact with the soil then it could be placed
safely in the pre-nursery to await emergence of the sprout.
6. Discard any coconuts that are really small or misshapen because of
damage by insects. Reject about 3 or 4 coconuts of each 30 coconuts collected,
7. Ask the Department of Agriculture about getting improved selected seed
nuts. Large coconuts are easier to process for "meat", (kernel, endosperm),
extraction, but do not always indicate high yields.
8. To select one for germinating, choose a fallen nut in which you can
hear water slosh when shaken. Leave the husk on and ¾ bury the nut
bottom point down in loose, organically rich soil in full sun or partial
shade with a little of the husk above the active eye removed, this allows
easier germination and potting. When the first shoot appears, usually after
3-6 months ( longer in marginal climates) the coconut can be left to root
and be transplanted later, or can be planted in its permanent site. Use a
fertilizer balanced in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Coconut Palms
are heavy users of potassium and chlorine so fertilizing with extra potassium
chloride is beneficial.
11.0 Propagation, pre-nursery and nursery
See diagram 53.11.1: Pre-nursery | See diagram 53.11.2: Nursery
1. You use the pre-nursery to identify the early germinating seed nuts.
They are the best coconuts because they grow into palms that begin to bear
many coconuts quickly.
2. The reason for having a nursery is to tell which are the strongest
seedlings. The seedlings stay in the nursery until you plant them out. Use
at least 50% more coconuts than you intend to plant in the field to allow
for selection of the best seedlings.
3. Choose a place for a pre-nursery and nursery, that is sunny, has no
shade from big trees nearby, has deep loose sandy or loam soil, and is about
6 metres long and 2 metres wide. Do not use rocky or clay soil. Put pegs
at the corners of the pre-nursery. Make planting lines about 90 cm apart.
Then make shallow grooves in the soil following the planting lines to hold
the coconuts in place. Fence the nursery to prevent damage by horses, cattle,
pigs, goats or coconut crabs, Birgus latro. Dig the fencing 10 cm
into the soil.
4. After collecting the coconuts, put them in the pre-nursery without
delay. Trim the seed nuts by cutting away some hard skin (exocarp) over the
germ pore (soft eye). Lay the coconuts (seed nuts) broad side up on their
sides and close together. Cover with palm fronds to keep the coconuts moist.
Do not roll over the nut during the stage of hidden germination when the
roots and shoots are growing through the husk because they will take longer
to emerge. For polybag planting, stand the coconuts upright, close together
and keep them in the pre-nursery until the 2-leaf stage when they are ready
for planting in the polybags. Check the coconuts each week and lift the sprouted
coconuts to the nursery and plant them there. If any seed nuts have not germinated
after 3 months use them for making copra.
5. If you have a ground-based nursery make a small hole in the ground
soil to hold each germinated nut. Plant them about 60 cm apart. Seedlings
in polybags can be put side by side. Gather leaves and grass and make a thick
cover of mulch on the soil all around planted coconuts. Take seedlings in
polybags to the nursery as soon as they germinate. Cut off the roots growing
outside the polybag to increase root development within the polybag.
6. Put the earliest germinating coconuts together at one end of the nursery.
Put slow germinating coconuts in another place. Cover the coconuts with
layers of dead coconut leaves or other plant material, and keep them watered
when the weather is dry.
7. If you use polybags, put one bag inside another in pairs. Fill each
double bag with soil up to 10 cm from the top to half submerge the nut in
the potting soil. Cut the tops off some coconuts and plant them vertically
in the bags. Cover the top of the bags with leaves or grass mulch. Make
holes in the bags on the sides near the bottom.
8. Water the coconuts and keep them watered regularly.
See diagram 53.12.1: Planting coconuts | See diagram 53.12.2: Polybag planting
See diagram 53.12.3: Polybags | See diagram 53.12.4: Marking out
1. Transplanting means digging up a seedling and planting it in another
place. Usually some roots are broken. When the roots are broken, the seedlings
suffer shock and grow more slowly. Coconuts are best transplanted in early
summer just before the wet season.
2. You can avoid transplanting shock by growing seedlings in black plastic
bags (polybags) usually available from the Department of Agriculture. Seed
nuts may not fit easily into these polybags if you lay them on their sides,
but you can trim off part of the husk to make them fit. You could plant
seed nuts vertically in the polybags with the stalk end up. However, in this
position the nut water is no longer in direct contact with the embryo when
the embryo extends within the nut at germination. A nut has its own irrigation
system with the nut water keeping the embryo wet. To speed up germination
by letting rain easily enter the husk and wet the active eye, cut a slice
of husk off the top or stalk end of the nut. Also, cut away the thin tough
outer layer to help the roots to emerge from the underside of the husk. Space
the seedlings 60 cm apart so you can dig up most of the roots of a seedling
without damage to the next
seedling. Use a fork to lift out most of the roots without breaking them.
3. Before transplanting, clear the area of all bush and cut down old coconut
palms. Do this even if you can only clear a small area for a few seedlings.
Do not plant seedlings under old palms because they will take longer to
bear fruit than if planted in the open. Clearing must be done to grow strong
early bearing palms but you will need to work hard to keep the weeds down
until the young palms provide good shade. It may take a long time to do the
4. Choose a place that has well drained good soil in a sunny place. Do
not plant in swampy soil.
While most often found along coasts in sandy soils, coconuts can be grown
in interior and upland regions, and in a variety of soils. Myth has it that
the coconut requires salt water, but this is not true.
5. The depth to dig the holes depends on the kind of soil and the level
of the groundwater. In deep loose soil the hole can be one metre deep and
fill back to 50 cm with surface soil and organic matter. However, if you
find water within 50 cm of the surface, the hole can only be about 60 cm
6. Do not try to plant too many seedlings. Planting only 4 to 6 seedlings
in the first lesson is better because you can make sure that no damage
to the roots of the seedling occurs. The seedling is ready for transplantation
after 10 to 12 months since germination when it has about 8 leaves and
the meat (kernel, endosperm) is nearly exhausted. Trim the roots back to
allow new roots to appear during the wet season. The diagram shows transplanting
of seedlings with only 4 -5 leaves so they are about 5 months old so they
are too early to transplant in most places.
7. Seedlings must show signs of strong, vigorous growth. You already know
which coconuts were the first to germinate. Now you must decide which of
the earliest to germinate are suitable for planting in the field. Select
the strongest seedlings that will grow quickly and bear coconuts sooner.
The strongest seedlings will have thick straight stems and many broad leaves
that soon split into leaflets.
12.1 Field planting of seedlings
See 9.14.0: Composting
1. Make a clear space for the seedlings.
2. Mark out places for the planting holes. Use string or strong fishing
line about 7650 cm long. Tie a knot every 8 metres. Stretch out the line
in a North South direction along one side of the planting area. Put a peg
in the soil next to each knot. Mark out the second row of pegs. Go to the
first two pegs in the first row. Hold the first and third knots over the
top of the two pegs. Pull out the line sideways and put a peg under the
second knot. Do this again until you have marked out the second row of
pegs. Then all the
palms will be 8 metres apart within each row, and between the rows on
a triangular pattern.
3. Dig the planting holes deep enough to allow one or two layers of husks
and some topsoil at the bottom. The top of the seedling nut must be about
10 cm below the surface of the soil.
4. Put layers of husks at the bottom of the hole, with cups broken and
facing up. Put good soil on top of these layers. Add potash or mixed fertilizer
or ashes from the fireplace at your home. Add washed coral sand if the soil
is heavy and sticky.
5. Drive a stake into the hole so you can tie the seedling to it.
6. Discard seedlings that have thin twisted stems and few narrow leaves.
7. Count the leaves on seedlings. Note which seedlings are the first to
have 5 leaves. Note which seedlings are the best shape and look the strongest.
Plant only the best seedlings. Plant the seedling so that the top of the
nut is about 10 cm below the soil surface. Put soil around the nut but do
not cover the collar of the stem. Soil is added to the hole later as the
stem grows in thickness.
8. If the coconuts need trace elements, cut a small square hole in the
top of the husk of the nut. Put in half a teaspoon full of the mixture that
should contain manganese and iron. Then put the piece of husk back into
the small hole.
9. Put good soil around the seedling, but not above the top of the nut.
10. Cover the planting hole with dead leaves or other mulch.
12.2 Transplanting seedlings in polybags
1. Dig a hole just big enough for the polybag to fit in it. Do not make
it too wide. Make it deep enough so that the bottom of the seedling stems
will be 12 cm below the soil surface.
2. At the bottom of the hole put some husks with cups facing up, as for
bare root seedlings above.
3. Cut off the bottom of the polybags. Carefully lower the bag and seedling
in its double bag into the hole. Cut down the side of the polybags and pull
them out. You may be able just to pull the bags up over the leaves without
4. Cut a small hole in the husk of the nut and put in trace element mixture
if they need that.
5. Pack soil into the space between the seedling and the hole made for
it, and then water the seedling.
13.0 Care of the seedlings, diseases and pests
13.1 Good and bad breeds of coconuts
Some coconuts are from a good breed so they always produce many coconuts
but other palms may be from a poor breed and not carry many coconuts. Use
good breeds of seed nuts so that the palms will bear well. In the first
few years of a new planting, replace damaged or lost plants with good breeds.
The coconut palm can live for 100 years although its peak production is
between 15 to 30 years, after which production declines. Replace older palms
with new palms of varieties that suited the local area. Plantations using
Dwarf palm X Tall palm hybrids must replace them earlier than when using only
1. Sunlight is the greatest need of a coconut palm. A shaded coconut palm
always loses some production. Some palms in an overcrowded forest may never
bear any coconuts. Cut down older unproductive palms that may be keeping
the sunlight from the young palms. Peak coconut production occurs when trees
are about 30 years old and continue to be productive to more than one hundred
2. A mean temperature 25oC to 28oC is best because
cool seasonal weather reduces growth.
3. A good water supply is essential because coconuts need more than 2000
mm rainfall per year, evenly distributed throughout the year without a
big dry season. They grow well if their roots can contact ground water, especially
in coastal areas where the soils may be deep and sandy and become dry between
periods of rain.
Drought reduces growth of the palm. A mature coconut palm can take up
20 litres of water each day. Coconuts need high humidity for the fruit to
13.3 Fertile soil, soil deficiencies,
See diagram: 53.9.0 Seedlings | See diagram 53.12.4: Drip circle
1. Coconuts grow well in aerated porous soils on coasts with plenty of
2. They can live in slightly salty soils but do not grow well if the soil
water becomes permanently salty.
3. They can grow well in soils with pH 5 to 8. Give the seedlings some
potash fertilizer or farmyard manure and perhaps trace elements if the pH
is greater than 8.0.
4. Add fertilizer to the soil in the drip circle. Soil deficiency of sulfur,
potassium (potash) and even nitrogen may lower yield without being noticed,
so ask the Department of Agriculture to do a chemical analysis of samples
of leaves and coconut water. Coconuts may also need very small amounts of
trace elements, e.g. iron, manganese, zinc boron and copper. This is why
some people bury bits of old rusty iron near the palms to supply iron. For
example, one Department of Agriculture recommends applying 15 g muriate of
potash (potassium chloride) and 7 g of sulfate of ammonia (ammonium sulfate)
to the seedling 3 months after planting in the polybag. Then repeat this
treatment every 3 months in the nursery but use much larger amounts in the
field if potassium is deficient. In locations far from the coast palms may
respond to an application of salt because they need much chlorine.
5. The coconut produces new adventitious roots throughout its life, eventually
from an inverted cone of tissue that is the extension of the trunk beneath
the soil surface. Both secondary and tertiary roots branch from these roots
anywhere along their length, particularly from adventitious roots near the
surface, in the soil layer richest in nutrients. Roots can extend up to
10m horizontally. So add fertilizer right across the space between the rows
of the plantation and not only within a couple of metres of the trunk of
13.4 Weeds and weed control
Keep a clear area 2 metres wide around each seedling by ring weeding and
by brushing the interlines every 3 months. Cut out any climbing weeds growing
close to the palms. Put this material around the young seedlings as mulch.
Never use fire in clearing around coconuts. Sow cover crops, e.g. Calopogonium,
Centrosema, Pueraria, or sow as a mixture. Do not plough
nearer than 2 metres to the palms to avoid damage to the roots. Ploughing
between the palms is not recommended unless intercrops are being grown
because it increases the loss of soil organic matter and may damage the
roots. Weeds and under storey vegetation compete for water and nutrients.
So clear them by hand or use grazing cattle to control them. Large trees
nearby compete for sunlight. However, cattle grazing under coconuts may
not get enough to eat for commercial success. Some people successfully grow
cocoa under coconuts. Other people grow annual crops (catch crops) between
the coconut palms (intercrops), e.g. sweet potato.
13.5 Diseases and pests
If travelling by air or sea between countries where coconuts are grown,
do not take any coconuts or coconut products with you without permission
from government authorities because you may spread coconut pests and diseases.
Ask the Department of Agriculture for advice about control of local diseases
5.1 Coconut bud rot, caused by fungus Phytophthora palmivora in
certain locations around the world, and various yellowing diseases, cause
eventual death of the central bud. Also the cinnamon fungus, Phytophthora
cinnamomii, attacks the roots. Strict crop hygiene is the best way to
control these diseases, so remove and burn all infected palms. These diseases
are sometimes confused with the effects of lightning strike that can usually
be identified because a group of palms dies surrounded by healthy palms.
5.2 Lethal yellows disease caused by a mycoplasma
occurs mainly in the Caribbean and Central America. A mycoplasma is a molecular
entity larger than a virus but lacking a cell wall. Symptoms include fruit
drop, blackened inflorescence, and yellowing then death of older leaves.
Leaf hopper bugs probably carry the disease. A similar disease occurs in
west and east Africa and Indonesia after damage due to bad weather. The similar
disease called cadang-cadang ("dying-dying") in the Philippines is also
lethal like Lethal
Yellowing. A viroid produces yellow spots on the leaves and slowly kills
the palm. A viroid is very small foreign molecule.
5.3 Rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros,
is a large brown black beetle, up to 5 cm long, with a horn on its head.
The adult beetle burrows into the terminal bud and may kill young palms
because the palm has only one vegetative bud. The beetle lays eggs in rotting
coconut logs. A similar pest is the black palm weevil, Rhyncophorus bilineatus.
A related beetle, Scapanes australis, is found in rainforest fringes
in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. It lays eggs in any decaying plant
material, so do not use compost without the agreement of the Department
of Agriculture because it may not allow the use of mulch in gardens because
these beetles may breed in it. Control these beetles by keeping the ground
clear of dead and dying trees and piles of decomposing plant material.
Ask the Department of Agriculture for advice on control of this beetle.
5.4 Palm Weevils, e.g. Rhynchophorus bilineatus,
and R. ferrugineus, lay eggs in damaged parts of the upper trunk
palm damaged where the Rhinoceros beetle has already burrowed or wind damage
is present. The larvae, about 3.5 cm long, burrow into the crown of young
palms to complete their life cycle there. They stay there and multiply until
they kill the palm. Try to prevent or protect wounds that act as entry sites
for this weevil.
5.5 Plant bugs, e.g. Amblypelta cocophaga,
feed on the flowers and decrease the number of fruits. Some sucking nut
fall bugs can cause nut fall of young fruits, but you can control them with
green ants (green tree ants, sugar ants, red weaver ants, red ants, "kurakum
ants", keregga, Oecophylla smaragdina). Similarly, the coconut scale,
Aspidiotus destructor, attaches to the under surface of the leaflets
and kills patches of tissue by sucking out the cell contents. You can control
it with spotted ladybird beetles.
5.6 Leaf-eating beetles, e.g. coconut leaf beetle,
Brontispa longissima, occur in the Solomon Islands and northern
Australia. Brontispa can be very severe and even fatal in countries where
it has recently arrived and the local coconut palms have no resistance
to it. The adult beetle is about 1 cm long, narrow, flat and orange to black.
The larva is cream with spines down the sides and a pair of curved hooks
at the rear. Also, caterpillars, grasshoppers and stick insects can suddenly
attack the leaves but not kill the palm, e.g. palm dart butterflies.
5.7 Red ring nematode, Rhadinaphelenchus cocophilus,
an eelworm found in South America and some Caribbean countries, gets into
the trunk through a wound and multiplies in the zone where water travels
to the crown causing a blockage of water flow and eventually kills the palm.
Weevils carry it into the trunk.
5.8 Other pests include the defoliating grasshopper,
Sexava, leaf-eating caterpillars, root caterpillars, and sucking
bugs on the inflorescence.
5.9 Rats may cause much damage to young trees, coconuts
and stored copra. You can control them by fitting tree guards or by using
the chemical warfarin, under supervision of the Department of Agriculture.
See Table 14.0: Harvesting coconuts
You can harvest young palms with a pole and hook knife but only experienced
climbers can harvest Tall palms. In the Pacific islands mature coconuts
are not usually harvested by hand. People just wait for the mature coconuts
to fall, and then collect them to make copra. Falling coconuts can cause
severe brain damage to young children. Rats can attack immature fruits and
cause them to fall without warning. Immature coconuts may be damage by fall
but mature coconuts are usually well cushioned to prevent the nut splitting
on impact. In the Philippines, coconuts are harvested every 45 days or eight
times a year.
15.0 Making copra
See diagram 53.15: Sun drier
While you are waiting for the seedlings to grow think about preparing
for making copra. Prepare to use or visit a copra drier.
1. Copra is the dried meat (kernel, endosperm) of the nut. The approximate
composition of copra is as follows: Oil 64%, Sugars 16%, Water 6%, Protein
7%, Fibre 5%, and Minerals 2%. Copra contains edible oil that gives the
body energy and protein. People, pigs or chickens cannot digest the coconut
fibre that is also valuable in the diet.
2. The meat (kernel, endosperm) inside an unbroken coconut does not go
bad because bacteria or fungi cannot get into it. However, when you cut break
open a coconut, bacteria and fungi get onto the meat and spoil it. If you
dry the meat and convert it into copra, bacteria and fungi cannot grow in
it and spoil it. The nut meat is eaten raw or used in a huge variety of
recipes for cooked food. Mass-produced nut meat is dried in the sun or in
ovens fuelled by burning the husks, to produce copra that has been the main
form in which coconut has been exported as it keeps well. It contains about
60-70% coconut oil, but the oil is slow to become rancid. Grated copra is
also used in confectionery.
3. The best copra is a light creamy colour and not dark. The pieces can
be broken with a snap when bent pressed hard into a C-shape with the brown
skin on the outside. Examine examples of good and bad copra.
4. Description of good copra:
1. Clean, no soil or fibres, and not burnt
2. Pieces break sharply, not leathery
3. Pieces same size, usually cup-shaped halves produced by drying the
meat (kernel, endosperm) while still in the shell
4. Moisture less than 7%, 6% is ideal
5. Mature coconuts only used to make copra
5. Break open a nut and leave it without drying for a few days. Note what
happens to the meat (kernel, endosperm).
6. You can make the best copra when the coconut meat (kernel, endosperm)
is dried quickly and does not get wet by rain. Put the split coconuts in
the sun for two days with meat uppermost. Remove the meat once it shrinks
enough to become loose. Spread the pieces on mats or trays and put them
in the sun for another 2 to 4 days. Cover the copra if it starts to rain.
You make the best copra in a hot air dryer because the drying is quicker
and has more heat to dry the pieces evenly. If you dry it too quickly, a hard
outer shell skin may form which slows further drying.
7. Some people try to make copra by using a smoke drier, but this copra
is of very bad quality with a dark colour and the smell of smoke.
8. Make or visit a small hot air drier and make some good copra.
16.1 Selecting a coconut
The coconut should feel comparatively heavy and have a splashing sound
when shaken. The soft eye is usually larger than the two blind eyes and should
be covered with a brown disc and has no embryo protruding through it, unless
the embryo still looks fresh. The two blind eyes have shell raised around
them, a bit like eyebrows. Avoid damaged coconuts or coconuts with cracks
in the shell.
16.2 Dehusking and opening a
The easiest way to open a coconut is to use the new coconut opening inventions:
See websites - Coconuts: Coconut
Opening a coconut from a coconut palm (fruit)
2.1 Impale the coconut on a spike or pipe fixed firmly in the ground.
Use a thick bladed coconut knife or a machete to cut into the husk to make
a lengthways split. Then make a second parallel split and use your hands
to pull off the husk between the two splits, assisted by a levering action
using the spike or a knife. Repeat this process to completely dehusk the
2.2 Use a machete to cut off the top of a drinking coconut husk with
four cuts along the length until the dome of the nut is revealed. Cutting
across the fibres is not easy. Pierce any of the eyes with a screwdriver
or corkscrew. Drain the coconut water. Tap right around the equator of
the nut with a hammer until it cracks into two halves. Cut through the meat
(kernel, endosperm) to the shell with a blunt knife to make wedges that
can be levered. If you leave the half coconut to dry in the sun or a slow
oven the meat separates from the shell.
Opening a round coconut from a shop (seed + endocarp)
2.3 Put the coconut in 2 plastic bags and hit it along the "equator" of
the nut to produce two halves. Use a thin blade knife to separate the meat
(kernel, endosperm) from the shell or use a coconut scraper to scrape out
the meat (kernel, endosperm) from the half nut.
2.4 Hold the coconut steady and tap around its circumference with a hammer
or the back of a cleaver. Turn and hit the coconut until it splits.
2.5 Roast the coconut at 190oC for 15 minutes, wrap it in a
tea towel, then hit it.
2.6 Poke a hole in a soft "eye" and pour the coconut water into a bowl.
Then put the coconut in a freezer for one hour or heat it in a 350o
oven for 20 minutes then leave to cool. Cover the coconut with a towel and
gently hit it with a hammer until it breaks open.
16.3 Opening drinking coconuts
for the coconut water (liquid endosperm)
A drinking coconut nut has a softer husk than a mature coconut. The husk
is easier to remove, but the shell is thinner, so it can be broken by inexpert
cutting. The coconut water from a drinking coconut (juice nut) just cut
from a palm, contains about 2% sugars and some minerals, vitamins and oil.
If undamaged, the coconut water is sterile and has even been transfused intravenously
to fight dehydration and electrolyte depletion in wounded soldiers during
combat instead of plasma when treating battle casualties. The shells being
waterproof, keeping the contents undisturbed and sterile. A drinking coconut
should have a glossy undamaged skin and white husk fibres. Drain the liquid
by making holes in the three “eyes” at one end, using a screwdriver or skewer.
Collect the nut water by removing a plug of meat (kernel, endosperm) from
behind the soft eye or recover the water after breaking open the coconut.
The coconut is full of coconut water and the soft meat (kernel, endosperm)
can be scraped off with a spoon. Prise the flesh from the shell with a blunt
knife and peel the brown skin with a vegetable peeler. The vitamin C content
of coconut water is actually very low, being around .002% . Coconut water
is often confused with coconut milk produced from grated coconut flesh. The
"drinking coconuts" taste best between 6 and 9 months old. In the Philippines,
the bacterium Acetobacter xylinum, vinegar bacteria, is allowed to
form a gelatinous mass called "nata de coco" on fermenting coconut water
which can be eaten as a sweet.
16.4 Opening mature coconuts
for the coconut meat (kernel, endosperm)
Select a large fruit that feels heavy for its size and without cracks,
dampness or mould in the outer husk. The "meat" (kernel, endosperm) is thicker
and tougher than in the drinking coconuts and it has the coconut taste.
It is not full of coconut water so you can hear a sloshing sound when you
shake the coconut. The meat has a crunchy pleasant taste. Fresh unopened
fruits can be stored for months.
16.5 Grating coconut meat (kernel,
Coconut meat cannot be roasted whole, so it is grated into small flakes
or particles that keep a chewy texture unless toasted and then kept very
dry. The distinctive rich aroma is caused by lactones, saturated fatty acids,
e.g. .gamma-decalactone, 4-hexylbutanolide, C10H18O2,
occurs in coconut to give it a fatty, creamy odour and a fatty, oily taste.
Use a coconut grating stool. A medium size coconut gives 3-4 cups of grated
coconut meat. Use the grated meat within two days or keep it in a refrigerator.
3.1 Shred pieces of the coconut meat with a kitchen hand grater.
3.2 Cut the coconut meat into small pieces and grate them 1/2 cup at a
time, in a food processor or blender.
3.3 Use a coconut grating stool consisting of a toothed iron bar attached
horizontally to a flat topped stool. Sit on the stool, hold half a coconut
shell held in both hands, and scrape the inside of the half coconut shell
against the teeth of the bar.
You can squeeze shredded fresh meat (kernel, endosperm) after adding a
little hot water to extract coconut cream or coconut milk containing coconut
oil for cooking. Cut and dry shredded meat (kernel, endosperm) to make
desiccated coconut for cakes. Also, use the residue after squeezing out the
cream for poultry feed or in a cake recipe. Coconut milk is produced by mixing
grated coconut with hot water, producing a milky white liquid containing
coconut oil and aromatic substances. The milk is used in a variety of Asian
recipes. An acceptable way to produce coconut milk is to mix desiccated
coconut with hot water in an electric blender.
16.6 Make coconut cream and
Coconut milk and cream are not prepared by boiling the mashed up kernel
but rather by pressing the material (at the kitchen level) in a cloth.
Hot water is often added after the first press (which produces the creamier
output) allowing a second pressing that delivers "milk". Commercially there
is mechanical pressing to generate thick cream and then various degrees of
dilution are used to give diminishing fat content from 33% in cream down
to maybe 8% in "lite".
Coconut cream and coconut milk are both infusions of shredded coconut
in water. Coconut meat is pounded or broken up by an electric blender to
form a paste. Water is added then strained to remove solids, then left to
stand and separate into a thick cream layer and a thin skim layer. Coconut
milk can also be made from dry shredded coconut or it can be purchased from
a supermarket. Coconut cream is thicker and more paste-like than coconut
milk. Some people use milk to make it thicker. Coconut milk is a liquid.
Coconut cream is rich in medium chain fatty acids and is used in the alcoholic
drink Pina Colada. The creamed coconut sold in food stores is very concentrated
coconut extract. It is a solid block at a low room temperature and can
be made into coconut cream or coconut milk by mixing it with water.
Coconut milk contains aromatic compounds plus oils. It contains about
20% fat, while the more concentrated coconut cream contains up to 33% fat.
Coconut milk may be used directly as a side dish with curries or a dressing
for raw fish, as a refreshing drink, and in curry recipes. Coconut milk can
be bought in tins and in packaged drinks in liquid and powdered form. Frozen
coconut cream is sold in packets especially by Asian food suppliers. Dissolve
the frozen block in hot water or chop it into pieces up and stir them directly
into the curry towards the end of the cooking time.
1. Coconut cream is what would eventually float to the top of the milk,
and can be a semisolid at room temperature. Use 1 cup of water with 2 cups
of scraped coconut. Leave to stand in a refrigerator. The cream will rise
to the top and harden. Skim off the cream.
2. Add a ½ cup of coconut water or hot water to grated coconut
meat. Leave to stand, and then squeeze with your hands. Put it into cheesecloth
or a strainer. Squeeze out the coconut cream.
3. To 2.5 cups boiling water add one grated coconut or 4 cups desiccated
coconut. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Squeeze the coconut and strain.
Use within 24 hours.
3. Simmer gently for 2 minutes over low heat a 4:1 mixture of shredded
fresh or desiccated coconut meat (kernel, endosperm) and water. Stir continuously
until foamy. Strain the liquid and squeeze the coconut with cheese cloth.
Refrigerate the mixture to help the cream separate and set.
4. Simmer equal volumes of shredded coconut and water or milk until froth
forms. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth. Squeeze out most of the
liquid, i.e. the coconut milk. The thick coconut cream forms a separate
layer above the coconut milk.
5. Commercially prepared coconut cream in cans or other hygienic packaging
may have an emulsifier added to thicken it. It may be found at the top of
canned coconut milk. Canned coconut milk and coconut cream are available
as full fat and low fat products in Asian and Indian food stores. One whole
coconut fruit is about equivalent to a 140 mL can of coconut milk. Coconut
cream can be used as a thickener in sauces.
16.7 Make coconut oil
Coconut oil is extracted from copra and used in a variety of ways including
in cooking margarine and soaps. From about 1850 to 1950, coconuts were the
main commercial source of vegetable oils. They were then overtaken by soyabean
and then by oil palm.
Refined coconut oil is used for cooking. Coconut oil is the fat content
of the coconut milk or coconut cream, with water removed. In the home it
can be skimmed off the top of heated cream. If you heat coconut cream or
coconut milk, the coconut oil remains as the water evaporates leaving curds
of protein in the bottom of the saucepan. If coconut milk is left to stand
for a few days the coconut oil separates and rises to the surface. It can
be skimmed off then heated to remove any water. Coconut oil is solid below
about 24oC and becomes rancid slowly. Freshly made coconut oil
is an excellent frying agent and an ingredient of some Asian foods.
16.8 Coconut toddy, palm wine,
The inflorescence is tapped for palm juice and is fermented producing
palm wine, toddy. Toddy is distilled to produce the alcoholic spirit called
arrack. Find an unopened flower spathe. Tap it all around with a small hard
stick to bruise it slightly, and then tie it around with fibre to stop it
opening. After 10 days, cut 5 cm from the end of the spathe and bend down
the end so sap can drip into a container. Every morning and evening for 2
to 4 weeks cut a slice of tissue from the end of a spathe and collect up
to 1 litre of sap per day. The fresh sap (toddy) contains several vitamins
and about 16% sucrose (palm sugar). The fresh drink is good for children,
but it soon ferments to form a high alcohol drink, palm wine or sour toddy.
Never give sour toddy to children. After lengthy storage the alcohol in sour
toddy is converted to vinegar. In Sri Lanka, evaporation of fresh toddy by
boiling produces palm sugar (jaggery). In Fiji, an intoxicating drink is
made with fermented coconut milk and the root of Piper methystichum
16.9 Coconut leaves (fronds)
Use the leaflets and midribs to make plaited baskets, hats, mats, fans,
toys, tongs, fences and decorations. You can use the leaf stalks for fuel.
Leaves are used for constructing shelters and in basket weaving, etc. Dried
coconut leaves can be burnt to ash and harvested for lime.
16.10 Coconut shell-based products
and wood-based products
Use the shells for cups, scoops, lamp bowls and small ukuleles. You can
polish and carve shell to make ornaments, e.g. earrings. Bury burning shells
to make charcoal fuel. Burn shells to dry the coconut meat (kernel, endosperm)
fish and other foods. Timber (called porcupine wood) is used in buildings.
16.11 Coconut husks, coir
Outer fibrous covering of the coconut (the mesocarp) is used for producing
coir matting and rope. Extract fibres from husks by leaving them under salty
water for a year or by passing them through a special motor-driven hammer
mill. The wet process is called retting. Pull off the outer skins to get
the fibres (coir) used to make door mats, brooms, boat fenders, ropes and
fibre board. Use husks for mulch and fuel. Long fibres in the petioles can
be made into strings. Coir pith fibres and coir dust are used in plant nursery
potting mixes as an alternative to peat moss. The main coir producers are
India and Sri Lanka where the cost of labour is low. Recovering the fibre
from the husk, and spinning and weaving the fibre is difficult and labour
16.12 Coconut trunk
Use palms over 25 years old for supporting poles and building posts because
they have dense wood in the lower two thirds of the trunk. You can get the
denser outer wood sawn in a sawmill to produce timber for making attractive
furniture, wooden boxes, structural framing for housing, firewood and charcoal
or activated carbon. Senile coconut palms can be logged as timber. In the
Pacific islands, an estimated 40% of coconut palms are senile, many being
planted in plantations before 1940 in coconut plantations.
However, the largest resources of senile palms are in Indonesia, the Philippines
16.13 Heart of palm
Heart of palm is the inner parts of the growing apex of the palm, apical
buds, where the next generation of fronds and flowers are developing. It
consists of pith that can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in stir fry cooking.
Extracting the heart kills the palm, so it appears wasteful but surplus
young palms may be available especially in abandoned plantations. Heart
of palms is canned as "palm hearts".
16.14 Sprouting coconuts
Although they can drift for months in sea water, in the natural course
of events a mature coconut will usually sprout through the active eye within
two months of falling. Nourished by the stored water and energy of the meat
(kernel, endosperm) the nut sprouts very vigorously and soon afterwards
roots protrude down through the husk too. Over about four months during germination
the nut is progressively filled with a sort of spongy yellow/white mass
that slowly absorbs the meat. This "apple" has a slightly sweet taste and
is eaten raw or boiled, or the husked "grow nut", with one eye pierced, can
be baked whole. Macapuno is an abnormal coconut found in the Philippines.
The fruit is full of a soft, delicious curd that can be eaten fresh or preserved.
16.15 Coconut cake stock feed
After extraction of oil from the copra the waste can be used for stock
feed. Similarly, the coconut left after making coconut milk or cream can
be eaten by humans as a snack.
16.16 Coconut oil as a biofuel
Coconut oil has been used as a diesel engine fuel for power generation
and boats. Coconut oil has a high gelling temperature, 22oC-25oC,
high viscosity, so it is usually blended with diesel oil to make biodiesel,
e.g. 50% diesel and 50% D.M.E. coconut oil. The coconut oil must be pure
to avoid carbonization and clogging in the engine. Engines modified to use
pure coconut oil may have an auxiliary tank of diesel oil for starting the
engine. Coconut oil has been successfully used as an engine lubricant.
16.17 Coconut cooking
Coconut oil is mainly used for frying in refined oil.
1. To make coconut ice, boil 2 cups of sugar in 1/2 cup of milk for 5
minutes after it comes to the boil. Add 3/4 cup of shredded coconut or desiccated
coconut and boil for 3 minutes or longer while stirring. Beat the mixture
until it thickens and pour it into a damp dish.
2. To make a coconut banana smoothie, put 2 ripe bananas, 1 cup of coconut
milk, 1 cup of cow's milk, 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream and 2 tablespoons
of honey in a blender and blend until smooth.
3. To make a coconut lemon cake, put 125 g unsalted butter and 1 cup of
castor sugar in a bowl and beat until light and creamy. Add 1 tablespoon
of finely grated lemon rind or lime rind. Add 22 lightly beaten eggs and
beat the mixture until all ingredients are combined. Fold 1 cup of sifted
self-raising flour, 1 cup of desiccated coconut and 1 cup of cow's milk
into the mixture. Put the mixture into a lightly greased and lined pan then
place in a 180oC preheated oven for 50 minutes. Serve the cake
To make coconut jam (kaya), whisk together eggs and sugar over low heat.
Add thick coconut milk and keep stirring over low heat. It becomes brown-green
with the consistency of custard. In Malaysia drops of Padan essence are
added for extra flavour and it turns green. Some people do not like it if
it is too sweet.
5. To make coconut scones, use 3 cups of self raising flour, 1 tablespoon
of castor sugar, 1 cup of coconut cream and 1 cup of milk. Mix and cut
into scone shapes. Bake in oven at 200oC.
16.18 Desiccated coconut
Desiccated coconut is very popular for cooking, confectionery, bakery
products including the covering of chocolate-coated cakes for children, e.g.
the Australian "lamington" cake. It is made by drying shredded pieces of
pared meat (kernel, endosperm) of fully matured fresh coconut after the removal
of the brown testa. It can be eaten by humans without further processing
and it has a natural white colour, sweet pleasant taste and smell. The sweet
smell of coconut meat is caused by lactones but the nutty tastes of of roasted
cocnut is caused by pyrazines and pyrroles. Desiccated coconut powder is
made by spray drying methods. The main producers are the Philippines, Sri
Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. Strict standards of food safety are needed
to ensure no contamination by Salmonella. Processed coconut flesh
is available as flaked, desiccated and powdered form. Store desiccated coconut
in a sealed container.
16.19 Copra and its products
1. Copra is the dried coconut meat (kernel, endosperm) removed from the
shell, usually as hemispheric halves, and then dried by smoke drying, sun
drying, or kiln drying (hot air drying). The crude coconut oil extracted
from copra is not suitable for consumption and must be refined, bleached,
and deodorized, to make RBD coconut oil. The grades of copra are determined
by moisture content. In a village where moisture meters are not available
in the villages, moisture content determination is done visually or by
cracking or splitting the copra by hand and feeling by experienced copra
buyers. In India, the milling grade of copra, manufactured by sun-drying
or hot air dryers, is used to extract the coconut oil, coconut butter. It
is classified in different grades. First grade copra must be dried by hot
air and be clean with no discoloration, smoke stains, excess mould, insect
infestation and charred pieces of copra, not contain
germinated coconuts, have moisture content < 6% and have fatty acid
content < 3%. The edible grade of copra is consumed as a dry fruit and
used for traditional oil lamps and lamps for religious purposes. This copra
is made in balls and cups, ball copra and cup copra.
2. Hydrogenated coconut oil has an increase in melting point and increased
saturated fat. It may contain trans fats. It is used in non-dairy creamers,
shortenings, e.g. Copha in Australia, children's foods, chocolate crackles
by coating Rice Bubbles in Copha, and snack foods.
3. Fractionated coconut oil, medium chain triglycerides (MCT) from coconut
oil has most of the long-chain triglycerides removed leaving mostly saturated
fats, the medium chain triglycerides caprylic acid and capric acid remain.
It is more heat stable and has a longer shelf life than other forms of coconut
oil. It is used to make essences, massage oils and cosmetics. Medium chain
triglycerides can be used in medicines and baby foods.
4. Many populations regard coconut meat as a healthy food and it represents
a high proportion of fats in their diet. Research is continuing on whether
higher levels of serum cholesterol in these populations are associated with
cardiovascular disease caused by the high proportion of saturated fats in
coconut oil. The usual recommendation is that some coconut oil in the diet
should be replaced by oils with a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats.
Some people in these populations believe that doctors in Western countries
are wrongly prejudiced against “tropical oils".
5. Below 24oC the coconut oil from copra is a white yellow
solid fat so is suitable for making soap. Hydrogenated coconut oil is used
to make margarine and shortenings, e.g. Copha in Australia. Coconut oil is
also used for making cosmetics, industrial lubricants, massage lubricants,
lamp fuel, skin moisturizers, hair styling solutions and sexual lubricants,
but not for lubricating condoms.
6. Until 1962 when overtaken by soya beans copra was the major source
of vegetable oil in the world. Since that time most of the large copra plantations
in the Pacific islands have been abandoned but coconuts are still grown
on small islands to produce copra that is then transported in hessian (jute)
bags (copra sacks) to centres for export.
7. Industrial uses of coconut products include methyl esters, rubber,
soap, detergents, lubricants, jet engine oils, PVC and polyurethane base
materials in paint, explosives and propellants.
See websites - Coconuts
"The coconut odyssey: the bounteous possibilities of the tree of life",
Foale, Mike A., Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research,
Canberra, Australia, 2003, ISBN 1 86320 370 2
"Palms in Australia", Jones, D. L., Reed Books, Melbourne, 1996, 3rd.
ed. ISBN 0 7301 04907
See diagram 53.9.0: Germination
In this document, the coconut growing on a coconut palm is called a "fruit".
The fruit is a fibrous drupe, not a nut. Also, a seed nut planted in a
coconut nursery is a fruit. The fruit wall consists of: 1. outer skin,
exocarp, 2. layer of husk fibres, mesocarp, 3. hard brown shell, endocarp.
The round coconut sold in shops, the "nut", the dehusked coconut, is the
seed + shell (endocarp). The husk is the outer skin (exocarp) + layer of
husk fibres (mesocarp).
Before teaching this project, discuss the content of the lessons with
a field officer of the Ministry of Agriculture and get advice on planting
material, spacing between palms, the site for planting, approved mulch, composting,
and control of pests and diseases. Use only the procedures, agricultural chemicals
and insecticides recommended by the local field officer of the Ministry of
Agriculture. If insects cannot be controlled by hand picking, ask the Ministry
of Agriculture to recommend a chemical spray. All insect sprays are dangerous.
Show the students how to use them safely. Wear gloves to avoid spray on
the hands and do not breathe in the spray. Wash the hands well after using
a spray. Keep the spray container in a safe place where students cannot get
it. Spray on a day of no wind or spray downwind on a windy day. The spray
must not blow on other people.
These teaching materials were originally written and illustrated by Mr
J. A. Sutherland, Faculty of Education, University of New England, Armidale,
Australia and later edited by Dr J. Elfick, School of Education, University
of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. The 2004 edition of this document was
edited by Mr Mike A. Foale, author of "The coconut odyssey: the bounteous
possibilities of the tree of life", by Foale, Mike A., Australian Centre
for International Agricultural Research, Canberra, Australia, 2003. Mr
Andrew Bray suggested some interesting ideas from his experience as a cruising