Facts About the Coconut Tree - Detailed Description and Uses
The coconut tree can truly be called the all giving tree of life. Each and every part of the coconut tree is utilized in some form or the other. Coconut trees need a lot of sunlight and well-aerated soil.They flourish in the tropical regions where the climate is hot, humid and have abundant rainfall.
They grow well in aerated sandy soil near the shorelines and are resistant to the salinity of the sea water.
They are grown in abundance in India, Sri Lanka, Hawaiian Islands, Polynesia, Philippines, Malaysia, South America, Brazil, Florida and California.
There are two types of coconut trees –the tall variety and the dwarf variety. The tall varieties are slow to mature, and the first flower appears after six – ten years. They have a life span of about sixty to seventy years. The dwarf variety has a life span of about thirty years. They bear fruits earlier than the tall varieties.
Description of the Coconut Tree
The botanical name of the coconut tree is Cocos nucifera. It belongs to the palm family (Arecaceae). This tree has a thick solid trunk and grows up to a height of 30 meters. The coconut tree has a crown of leaves at the top most part of the trunk.
The coconut tree has shallow fibrous roots. The leaves of the coconut tree are pinnate in the arrangement. There is a thick central structure that grows to 4 - 6 meters in length. On this structure, many long narrow leaves grow on either side and are 60 - 90 cm long.
The male and female flowers are found in the same inflorescence ( a group of flowers arranged on a long stalk) on the same tree. The flowers are pollinated by the wind and are a light yellow to dark yellow in color. The coconut inflorescence is used for decoration purposes.
The coconut fruit is a fibrous one-seeded drupe (a drupe is a fruit with a hard stony covering enclosing the seed). It is oval and green in color when it is unripe. As the fruit ripens, it turns yellow to reddish yellow in color.
Medicinal Uses of the Coconut Tree
The coconut water is an excellent source of hydration for the body. It is low in fat and cholesterol content.
Coconut water is rich in chloride and potassium and contains natural sugars. It is readily absorbed into the blood being an isotonic electrolyte.
Coconut water boosts metabolism, aids digestion, cleanses and detoxifies the blood.
Coconut oil extracted from the flesh of the coconut is used for hair and skin care.
Benefits of coconut oil for the skin -
- coconut oil is an excellent moisturizer for the skin and is used to treat many skin conditions
- it relieves minor insect bite irritations and reduces inflammation of the skin
- coconut oil is loaded with antioxidants that help to prevent aging of the skin
- it smooths dry and chapped skin
- protects the skin from the harmful rays of the sun
- used in treating skin problems like acne, eczema, and psoriasis
Coconut oil is an important ingredient in many cosmetic products.
Other Uses of the Coconut Tree
The trunk of the coconut tree produces a wood called porcupine wood that is used as a building material. It is used to make canoes, poles, rafters and fences.
The huge leaves are woven together to make thatched roofs.
The fibrous husk of the coconut also known as coir is used for making cushions, mattresses, ropes, brushes and stuffing fiber. It is extensively used in horticulture for making potting compost.
The thick central midribs of the coconut leaves are used to make baskets, mats, for tying logs together.
The thick white fleshy layer of the coconut is used in cooking to make a variety of dishes. It is also eaten plain and used to make salads.
The coconut has a juice called coconut water. The top of the green coconut is cut off, and a straw is fitted through this hole to sip the delicious and sweet coconut water. This coconut water is sweet and refreshing. It is a source of instant energy. The coconut water is also rich in antioxidants, proteins, and vitamins.
Coconut milk is extracted from the white fleshy part of the coconut. This milk is used to flavor soups, snacks, and vegetables. The remaining coconut chunks from coconut milk production is used as cattle feed.
The sap of the coconut tree is used to make an alcoholic drink (tuba). This sap is also used to make wine and vinegar.
If the nut remains on the tree and continues to ripen, the outside becomes harder, and the fleshy inner lining thickens, and the coconut water becomes tasteless.The thickened layer is called copra. The copra is used to extract coconut oil. This oil is used for cooking, and in making margarine, cosmetics, soaps and candles.
The empty shells are used to make wooden bowls; they are used as a cooking fuel and in the production of gas masks and air filters.
The roots are used to make natural dyes and in making herbal medicines.
The coconut shell is used to make coconut jewelry such as beads, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and bangles. They are also carved out to create coconut buttons for Hawaiian aloha shirts.
The shells are used to buff floors. It is a good source of charcoal and is widely used as an industrial and stove fuel. Activated Charcoal is also produced from the coconut shell.
The coconut shell is also used to make musical instruments -Hawaiian Niuu Kani Ukulele, Hawaiian Knee Drum, Ektara, Kalimba, etc.