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Coconut Domestication


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All About the Coconut Palm
Tall Coconut Palm in Tamil Nadu India

Tall Coconut Palm in Tamil Nadu India

Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan

The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera L.) was (and is) an important crop cultivated in tropical portions of Africa, America, Asia and Oceania. They grow best in coastal areas between 20 degree latitude north and south of the equator, at temperatures between 27 and 30 degrees centigrade.

There is considerable amount of evidence that the coconut was used to fuel Polynesian exploration of the Pacific, the lucrative Arabic trade of the Indian Ocean, and vast amounts of European exploration as well. The fruits of the coconut palm--coconuts--were used by these seafarers as a source of food (copra), drink (cream, milk, vinegar and wine), fiber for clothing, shell charcoal and carbon for fires, timber for construction and leaves for thatching, and oils for cooking and heating. Today, over 12 million hectares of coconut are grown in 89 different tropical countries, mostly in the Asia-Pacific region; coconuts are used to produce pharmaceuticals, biofuels, detergents and cosmetics.

There are two major sub-populations of coconuts and hundreds of coconut cultivars in the world. Botanists generally recognize two main types of coconut cultivars: Tall and Dwarf. However, despite this variety, all coconut palms are considered Cocos nucifera L., and it is the only species in the genus. Wild coconuts are not known; all coconuts today are dependent on human interaction to survive and regenerate.


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