Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Cocos nucifera Linnaeus

Species:C. nucifera
Common Names:Coconut


This is a single stem palm that can grow to a height of 30 m. Leaves are large, up to 5 m long, simple pinnate, has a well developed stalk and 80-100 pairs of leaflets. The leaflets are linear-lanceolate and measure 100 x 2 cm at the midpoint. The inflorescence is an elongated structure, 1-1.2 m long, enclosed by 2 spathes of 60-90 cm long. There are up to 40 side branches, each about 60 cm long and bearing unisexual, cream coloured flowers. Up to 5 female flowers are found at the base of each inflorescence branch, the rest being male flowers. The fruits have a thick fibrous husk that covers a thin hard and woody shell. The inner surface of this shell is covered with a white, fleshy meat and the centre of the fruit is filled with a liquid, the coconut water.

Read more about the Arecales order.
Read more about the Arecaceae family.


Found all over the tropics.

Life Cycle

The  male flowers open 10-20 days before the female to discourage self pollination. Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) as well as Spectacled Spiderhunter (Arachnothera flavigaster) have been reported to visit the flowers for the nectar. These, as well as other nectar feeding birds like sunbirds assist in cross pollination.

Human Uses

All parts of the coconut palm has some use or other. The trunk can be used in the construction of houses; the husk of the fruits make excellent fibre and thermal insulating boards, besides being used to make mats, carpets and ropes; and the leaves are used for thatching while their midribs make excellent brooms. The flesh of the fruits can be eaten fresh, squeezed to give coconut milk for cooking or pressed for oil; and the water makes a good drink. The shell of the fruits are made into ladles, buttons or used as fuel. The inflorescence is tapped for its sugary secretions to turn into coconut sugar and/or toddy.


Chong, K. Y., H. T. W. Tan & R. T. Corlett, 2009. A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore: Native, Naturalised and Cultivated Species. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, Singapore. 273 pp.

Related Images

Related Documents

  • Races of the Coconut palm.
    Haji Omar, A. (12 Sep 1919)

    In a recent number of the Philippine Agricultural Review, Vol. XI., 1918, page 13, Mr. P. J. Wester has remarked that existing literature seems to indicate the Coconut palm to have "probably not more than thirty five distinct varieties" and he adds that such is a remarkably small number considering the antiquity of its cultivation and its wide distribution. Whether this be right or not, investigation only can prove. In Singapore Island fourteen exist, twelve differing from each other in the nut, and two differing also in growth. With this issue of the Gardens'  Bulletin figures are given of the nuts of these Singpaore races. 

  • Coconut bud rot
    Chipp, T. F. (31 Jan 1920)
  • Red Ring Disease of Coconut
    Chipp, T. F. (12 Apr 1920)

    The following extracts are taken from a report read by Mr. W. Nowell, D. I. C., Mycologist, Imperial Department of Agriculture, Trinidad on Oct. 16, 1919, and published in the " Agricultural News " Vol. XVIII, No. 460. It is considered it may be of interest to local growers of coconuts. 

  • Branched Coconut palms and their fertility
    Furtado, C. X. (07 Nov 1924)


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