Cocos L.
  • Sp. Pl.: 1188 (1753) 

Notes: Distribution: C. Malesia to SW. Pacific

General Description

Moderate, solitary, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious palm, sometimes flowering while still without an emergent trunk. Stem erect, often curved or slanting, becoming bare and conspicuously ringed with leaf scars. Leaves numerous, pinnate, neatly abscising; sheath fibrous, forming a woven supportive network with a conspicuous, tongue-like extension opposite the petiole, eventually disintegrating and becoming open; petiole short to long, adaxially channelled, abaxially rounded, bearing caducous tomentum abaxially; rachis elongate, curved or straight, adaxially angled near the tip, abaxially rounded, with caducous tomentum abaxially; leaflets very numerous, single-fold, regularly arranged in one plane, usually rather stiff, linear, acuminate, usually bifid with slightly asymmetrical tips, adaxially glabrous, abaxially with abundant, dot-like scales and very small ramenta along the midrib, midrib prominent adaxially, transverse veinlets evident. Inflorescences solitary, interfoliar, axillary, branched to 1 order, protandrous; peduncle ± elliptic in cross-section, robust, elongate, bearing scattered scales; prophyll tubular, 2-keeled laterally, opening apically, becoming fibrous, tomentose, persistent, ± obscured by the leaf sheaths; peduncular bract inserted near the prophyll, very large, tubular, entirely enclosing the inflorescence until shortly before anthesis, splitting abaxially, becoming boat-shaped, beaked, thick, woody, adaxially smooth, abaxially with longitudinal, shallow grooves and caducous tomentum; rachis ±equalling the peduncle, bearing spirally arranged rachillae, each subtended by an inconspicuous triangular bract and with a swollen base; rachillae robust, ± pendulous at first, later spreading with a basal bare portion and none or a few basal triads and pairs or solitary staminate flowers distally; rachilla bracts and floral bracteoles inconspicuous. Staminate flowers ± asymmetrical, narrowly ovoid, moderate, sessile; sepals 3, distinct, rather unequal, imbricate, triangular, ± keeled; petals much longer than the sepals, thick, rather leathery, distinct, valvate, irregularly boat-shaped, acute; stamens 6, filaments rather short, distinct, awl-shaped, fleshy, ± erect, anthers deeply sagittate basally, shallowly so at the apex, elongate, medifixed, ± versatile, latrorse; pistillode with 3, slender, pointed lobes. Pollen ellipsoidal, frequently elongate and/or pyriform, usually with either slight or obvious asymmetry; aperture a distal sulcus; ectexine tectate, finely perforate, perforate and micro-channelled, or perforate-rugulate, aperture margin slightly finer; infratectum columellate; longest axis 62–70 µm [1/1]. Pistillate flowers very large, globose in bud, becoming very broadly ovoid at anthesis; sepals 3, distinct, imbricate, ± rounded; petals similar to and somewhat longer than the sepals, lacking valvate apices, very leathery; staminodal ring low, membranous, not lobed; gynoecium trilocular at the very base, triovulate, broadly ovoid, obscurely 3-angled, extremely fibrous distally, stigmas 3, very short, borne in a slight depression, ovule anatropous, very small, laterally attached. Fruit very large (except in unusual forms), ellipsoidal to broadly ovoid, indistinctly 3-angled, dull green, brown, brilliant-orange, yellow, to ivory-coloured when ripe, perianth enlarging in fruit, stigmatic remains apical; epicarp smooth, mesocarp very thick and fibrous, dry, endocarp thick and woody, ± spherical to narrow ovoid, indistinctly 3-angled, with 3 longitudinal ridges, and 3, large, slightly sunken, basal pores, each with an operculum. Seed almost always 1 only, very large, with a narrow layer of homogeneous endosperm, and a large central cavity partially filled with fluid; embryo basal, opposite one of the endocarp pores. Germination adjacent-ligular; eophyll entire, broadly lanceolate. Cytology: 2n = 32.

Diagnostic Description

The often slanting stems and graceful crowns of the coconut are largely responsible for palms being considered the hallmark of the tropics. Furthermore, the coconut, one of the ten most important crop trees, is the mainstay of many people.


Leaf, stems, root (Tomlinson 1961), phloem (Parthasarathy 1974, 1980), wood (Chen 1995), root (Seubert 1998a, 1998b), megasporogenesis (Reddy and Kulkarni 1989), fruit (Roth 1977, Reddy and Kulkarni 1985).


Cocos nucifera is often regarded as a strand plant but it will flower and fruit in humid equatorial regions at altitudes up to 900 m above sea level. Its natural habitat may well have been strand vegetation.


A single species widely cultivated throughout the tropics and warmer subtropics. Origin uncertain but said to be western Pacific (Harries 1978, Gruezo and Harries 1984, Buckley and Harries 1984) (but see below).

Belize, Benin, Bismarck Archipelago, Borneo, Caroline Is., Central American Pacific Is., Chile North, Costa Rica, Fiji, Gabon, Gilbert Is., Hawaii, India, Jawa, Leeward Is., Line Is., Madagascar, Malaya, Maldives, Maluku, Marcus I., Marianas, Marquesas, Marshall Is., Mauritius, Nauru, New Guinea, Nicaragua, Niue, Ogasawara-shoto, Philippines, Phoenix Is., Puerto Rico, Queensland, Réunion, Samoa, Seychelles, Society Is., Solomon Is., Sri Lanka, Thailand, Togo, Tokelau-Manihiki, Trinidad-Tobago, Tuamotu, Tubuai Is., Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis-Futuna Is.


One of the most important tropical crops with a multiplicity of uses both local and commercial.

Common Names


Distribution Map

  • Native distribution
  • Introduced distribution
Found in
  • Asia-Tropical Malesia Maluku
  • Philippines
  • Papuasia Bismarck Archipelago
  • New Guinea
  • Solomon Is.
  • Australasia Australia Queensland
  • Northern America Mexico Mexico Southeast
  • Pacific Southwestern Pacific Samoa
  • Santa Cruz Is.
  • Tokelau-Manihiki
  • Vanuatu
  • Wallis-Futuna Is.
  • Southern America Western South America Colombia
Introduced into
  • Africa Middle Atlantic Ocean Ascension
  • South Tropical Africa Angola
  • Mozambique
  • West Tropical Africa Benin
  • Gambia, The
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Ivory Coast
  • Liberia
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Togo
  • West-Central Tropical Africa Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Gabon
  • Gulf of Guinea Is.
  • Zaire
  • Western Indian Ocean Chagos Archipelago
  • Madagascar
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique Channel Is.
  • Réunion
  • Seychelles
  • Asia-Temperate China China South-Central
  • China Southeast
  • Hainan
  • Eastern Asia Ogasawara-shoto
  • Taiwan
  • Asia-Tropical Indian Subcontinent India
  • Laccadive Is.
  • Maldives
  • Sri Lanka
  • Indo-China Andaman Is.
  • Cambodia
  • Myanmar
  • Nicobar Is.
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Malesia Borneo
  • Christmas I.
  • Cocos (Keeling) Is.
  • Jawa
  • Malaya
  • Sulawesi
  • Sumatera
  • Pacific North-Central Pacific Hawaii
  • Northwestern Pacific Caroline Is.
  • Marcus I.
  • Marianas
  • Marshall Is.
  • South-Central Pacific Cook Is.
  • Easter Is.
  • Line Is.
  • Marquesas
  • Society Is.
  • Tuamotu
  • Tubuai Is.
  • Southwestern Pacific Fiji
  • Gilbert Is.
  • Nauru
  • Niue
  • Phoenix Is.
  • Tuvalu
  • Southern America Brazil Brazil North
  • Brazil Northeast
  • Brazil Southeast
  • Caribbean Bahamas
  • Cayman Is.
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Leeward Is.
  • Puerto Rico
  • Southwest Caribbean
  • Trinidad-Tobago
  • Venezuelan Antilles
  • Windward Is.
  • Central America Belize
  • Central American Pacific Is.
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Northern South America Venezuela
  • Southern South America Chile North

Included Species


  • 1 J. Dransfield & N. Uhl & C. Asmussen & W.J. Baker & M. Harley & C. Lewis, Genera Palmarum. The evolution and classification of palms. 2008
  • 2 Govaerts, R. & Dransfield, J. (2005). World Checklist of Palms: 1-223. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • 3 Govaerts, R. (1999). World Checklist of Seed Plants 3(1, 2a & 2b): 1-1532. Continental Publishing, Deurne.
  • 4 Govaerts, R. & Dransfield, J., World Checklist of Palms

 Information From

Palmweb - Palms of the World Online
Palmweb 2011. Palmweb: Palms of the World Online. Published on the internet Accessed on 21/04/2013
  • A Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
  • B
eMonocot. (2010, 1st November). Retrieved Wednesday, 8th February, 2012, from
  • C Content licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
WCSP 2014. 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved 2011 onwards
  • D See You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement.