Learn Everything about COCONUT – Complete Guide and Main Facts about Coconut

The coconut is a jewel of the tropics, but why? You’ll see that in every continent it is considered one of the most important fruits thanks to its multiple uses, so much so that many people and communities have called it “the tree of life”.

Here you’ll not only learn the enormous usefulness of coconut but also its characteristics, types, properties, history, cultivation, industry figures, and by-products.

What is coconut and what are its characteristics? 

Scientific nameCocos Nucifera 
Common nameCoconut, coconut palm, etc.
Place of OriginThere is no certainty of the place of origin.
HabitatTropical and Subtropical regions
DistributionPresent in all continents

The scientific name of the coconut palm is Cocos Nucifera, belonging to the Palmaceae family and monotypic, i.e., it is the only species of the Cocos genus.

It’s one of the longest-living trees since it can reach up to 100 years old, and it grows around the world in all tropical and subtropical regions.

In this section, you’ll learn more about all the characteristics of this plant.

Coconut palm trunk 

This palm has a single stem that can be straight or slightly curved. It has a cylindrical shape because it has a wide base with a diameter of about 80 cm and a narrower top reaching a maximum diameter of 30 cm.

It’s gray and has small permanent scars left by the leaves when they fall due to old age. In optimal conditions, the trunk can grow in 3 to 4 years.

Coconut palms are strong and elastic, they can even resist hurricanes by leaning to the opposite side of the wind direction.

Coconut Palm roots 

The roots of the coconut palm detach from its stem and grow throughout the entire life of the tree. It has a strong root system that allows it to withstand extreme climatic conditions by being well anchored in the soil.

It is composed of main roots and rootlets, both white and yellow in their youngest stage, and as they mature they turn red and brown tones. The primary roots are in charge of anchoring the palm to the soil and absorbing water to give it vitality. They can measure from 5 to 10 meters long and have from 8 mm to 1 cm in diameter.

The rootlets are detached from the main or primary roots and are important because they are responsible for obtaining and extracting other crucial nutrients for the plant. They are short-lived and this will depend on the ecological conditions of the area where the palm is grown.

Coconut palm leaves and flowers 

The palm leaves have green and yellow shades. They are arched and long and can be 5 to 6 meters long. Depending on the type of coconut palm, the number of leaves will vary and their longevity will change depending on environmental conditions such as soil fertility. When the leaf reaches old age, it begins to dry out until it falls off and dies.

When the palm reaches 4 to 6 years of age, it will begin to have flowers. These are yellow, can measure between 0.6 to 0.9 meters long and can form flower clusters of between 10 to 50 branches that form on the lower part of the coconut palm’s leaves.

Coconut fruit 

The coconut is oval, and approximately 38 cm long and 30 cm wide. On the outside, it has a thick shell called exocarp, which is green at first and turns brown when the fruit ripens, although this may vary depending on the type of coconut. In addition, the shell consists of fibers that cover the fruit completely.

The pulp or flesh of the coconut is white, it hardens and thickens as it advances in its maturation process rising about 15 to 20 mm in diameter depending on the variety. This pulp is covered by a thin layer of about 3 to 5 mm in diameter that is initially translucent but darkens to a brownish color.

In addition, its interior is hollow and contains a liquid called coconut milk or coconut water. This liquid is abundant when the fruit is immature but is compacted when it reaches maturity.

Varieties of coconut you didn’t know 

Coconuts are classified by the morphological characteristics (structure) of the palm and fruits that vary in color and size. Generally, they are classified into two main groups:

Giant or tall coconuts

As its name indicates, these palms are characterized by their height of 20 to 30 meters. They begin to produce fruits after 5 to 7 years after planting and are long-lived plants that can produce fruits up to 80 to 100 years of age.

The fruits are medium to large with a great pulp. Some of its best-known palm varieties are:

East Coast tall Coconut

This type of coconut is known in India, in regions such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Pondicherry, among others. It can reach 30 meters high and starts yielding after 6 to 8 years of cultivation. In general, it’s quite resistant as long as the soil is not too wet. In addition, they can produce up to 70 coconuts per year.

West Coast tall Coconut 

It’s very popular in India and can grow in almost any type of soil. They bear fruit after 6 to 7 years producing a total of approximately 80 coconuts per year.

Tall Chandrakalpa Coconut 

This type of palm is characterized by producing up to 100 coconuts per year, and it bears fruit when the tree is 5 to 6 years old. In addition, it adapts very well to conditions with high or low humidity.

Other types of coconut besides those mentioned above are:

  • Panama Tall
  • Jamaican Tall
  • Malaysian Tall
  • West African Tall
  • Sudan Tall
  • Tahitian Rennel High

Dwarf coconuts 

Compared to tall coconuts, these are characterized by low heights ranging between 5 to 10 meters high. They have a short life span of 40 to 50 years and bear small to medium-sized fruits from the 4th to 5th year. Some of the best-known varieties in this classification are:

Indian orange dwarf

This type of palm bears orange-colored fruits that have a large amount of pulp and relatively sweet coconut water. They can bear up to 65 fruits per year from the 3rd to 4th year after planting.

Malaysian yellow coconuts 

The fruits of this palm are medium-sized and yellow and are said to be one of the oldest to be cultivated. Although they are native to Malaysia, they are currently found in different parts of the world such as Brazil and Thailand.

Green coconut 

Just like the yellow coconuts, these are native to Malaysia. They are green and never change color. Their main peculiarity is that they contain more water than pulp.

Other types of this fruit are:

  • Fijian dwarf
  • Malaysian golden dwarf
  • Samoan dwarf
  • Cameroon red


Tall and dwarf coconut varieties have been used to create genetic mutations giving rise to hybrid varieties.

Coconut fruit by-products 

Indonesians say that the coconut palm has a use for every day of the year, and with good reason, since the coconut has a multitude of uses as a fruit with a high level of utility. It’s possible to make products with its water, the bark or shell, the pulp, and in general with all the parts of the coconut.

Products made from coconut

Handmade coconut products 

Coconut fiber 

The shell or bark of the mature and unripe coconuts have natural fibers that are used to manufacture:

  • Fabrics
  • Ropes
  • Carpets
  • Brooms
  • Bags
  • Brushes
  • Fishing nets
  • Among others

Coconut fibers are also used in agriculture. They go through a crushing process and are then used to enrich crops. This fiber allows crops to have high water retention and good aeration, thus receiving more nutrients.

Industrial coconut-based products 

Coconut oil 

Coconut oil is extracted from the pulp of ripe coconuts because it contains high amounts of oil. It can be obtained in an artisanal way by grinding the pulp to obtain “coconut milk” which must be rested or cooled to obtain the water, oil, and cream.

However, the consumption of this oil in the world is more than 3 million tons, therefore, the demand is so high that this oil of artisanal origin is now an industrial product marketed worldwide, especially the United States is the country that imports this product the most.

Other products 

In addition to coconut oil, there are quite common products on the market made from this fruit such as:

  • Coconut milk and coconut water
  • Flour
  • Shredded coconut
  • Coconut pulp
  • Coconut cream
  • Chocolate covered coconut
  • Dehydrated coconut

Coconut-based cosmetic products 

In the beauty industry, coconut is used for all its benefits. It is, for example, a great moisturizer due to its high content of fatty acids, it has anti-inflammatory properties, it revitalizes the skin helping with skin degeneration due to reasons such as age, among other benefits.

Although the different parts of this fruit are used to make different products, coconut oil is the most used to make hygiene and beauty products such as:

  • Body creams
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioners
  • Facial creams
  • Moisturizing masks
  • Micellar cleansing waters
  • Anti-aging creams
  • Lip balms
  • Oils
  • Exfoliating scrubs
  • Hair masks
  • Among others

Benefits of the coconut palm fruit 

Nutritional information about coconut 

Now you are going to learn the nutritional information of a 100-gram serving of fresh coconut, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA, 2020).

Product nutritional information: Raw plum 
Serving: 100g of plum
Water47 grams
Energy354 Calories
Protein3,33 grams
Total lipids (fats)33,5 grams
Carbohydrates15,2 grams
Fiber9 grams
Sugars6,23 grams
Calcium14 grams
Iron2,43 grams
Magnesium32 grams
Phosphorus113 grams
Potassium356 grams
Sodium20 grams
Zinc1,1 grams
Copper0,435 milligrams
Selenium10,1 micrograms
Vitamin C3,3 milligrams
Thiamine0,066 milligrams
Riboflavin0,02 milligrams
Niacin0,54 milligrams
Vitamin B-60,054 milligrams
Vitamin Amicrograms
Folate26 micrograms
Fatty acids, total saturated29,7 micrograms

Coconut and all products derived from fruit have long been considered a very useful food, and it also has enormous benefits for the human body.

In this section, you are going to learn about the benefits of some of the coconut by-products.

Properties of coconut oil 

Coconut oil is one of the most important foods given by nature, for example, the author of the book “Coconut oil health, cosmetics and nutrition” states that “Coconut oil is a true gift of nature, a functional food, a ‘superfood’ that is part of the traditional diet of many cultures”. For this reason, here you’ll learn some of the benefits of this product.

Fun fact:

This book was awarded in the Gourmand Cookbook Awards’17 as one of the best books in Spanish language in the “Health and Nutrition” section.

Source of energy 

Cardiovascular diseases are commonly related to increased cholesterol levels in the body due to a high intake of saturated fats.

When it became known in the world market that coconut oil contains saturated fats, people panicked because they thought that if they consumed it they would be at risk of having these diseases.

However, coconut oil has medium-chain saturated fats. This means that these fatty acids enter directly into the bloodstream and are quickly metabolized by the body. This characteristic makes it a good source to meet the energy needs of the human body (Indian Coconut Journal, 2017).

Strengthens the immune system 

The high content of fatty acids such as lauric, caprylic, and capric in coconut oil makes it highly effective in acting against bacteria or viruses that may enter the body. In addition, it can in turn increase the body’s defenses.

Properties of coconut water 

Good source of hydration 

Since ancient times, coconut water has been the favorite remedy for treating dehydration. This liquid contains large amounts of electrolytes. So what do electrolytes do? Let me explain, they are responsible for keeping the body hydrated, allowing the muscles and nerves to work properly.

Fun fact:

Coconut water was used by Japanese doctors in Sumatra and by the British in Ceylon. This liquid was injected intravenously into the wounded to hydrate them. This was done because there was no plasma and health personnel had to use the resources around them.

Other advantages of coconut water 

Coconut water is low in sugar and calories and almost fat-free, in addition to containing B vitamins. Because of these characteristics, it is one of the preferred beverages for consumption.

And not only that, coconut water is also used to reduce or dissolve kidney stones and also as an antidote for poisoning or mineral poisoning.

History and origin of coconut 

It is said that the word coconut comes from Spanish or Portuguese. The meaning of this word is “goblin or specter”. You see, this meaning is due to the fact that the coconut has three holes on the outside of the fruit, people thought it was something horrible and scary, so they gave it that name alluding to that reference.

The origin of this fruit is a source of great controversy, due to its wide distribution in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. There are two perspectives or theories: the first says that it originated in southern Asia, and the second says that it originated on the west coast of America and the Pacific Islands.

There are several facts about its possible distribution in different parts of the world. On the one hand, it is said that it was first introduced to Europe by Arab traders when they made coconut exports, and this is believed thanks to the documentation they made in the medieval period.

On the other hand, this fruit was quite common in the Age of Exploration, when the Spanish and Portuguese used the coconut to carry on ships with their provisions, which is how it was introduced in Brazil and Puerto Rico around the sixteenth century. It may also have been distributed on the Pacific coasts of Mexico thanks to the Manila-Acapulco trade route in 1571.

However, it has also been claimed that humans may not have had much influence on the distribution of the coconut in different parts of each continent. But how?

Well, the distribution could have been due to the great adaptability of this palm, it is supposed that the coconut tree traveled by sea currents preserving its viability for weeks, and thanks to this it was distributed in different parts of the world surviving pests, bacteria, wind, soils, among other external factors that made the palm change and survive.   

The coconut industry worldwide 

Below, you’ll learn about the coconut industry in terms of production, exports and imports.

Top 5 coconut-producing countries in the world 

PositionCountriesProduction in tons
Sri Lanka2’233.600

1. Indonesia 

Indonesians are the largest producers of coconut, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), this country produced a total of 16’824,848 tons in 2020.

Coconut plantations are present in almost all regions throughout the country with Sumatra being the most important, occupying 32% of the total cultivated area.

This product is important for the country’s economy. It is estimated that the cultivation area is around 3.81 million hectares, of which 98.16% of the total coconut plantations belong to small producers, the private sector occupies 1.69%, and the government 0.14%.

2. India 

India is the second largest producer in the world. In 2020, it had a total production of 14,695,000 tons (FAO). In addition, the total area under coconut cultivation in this country is 1.89 million hectares.

Approximately 12 million people are economically dependent on coconut cultivation and production. It is of great importance in the regions of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka where for about 3 million families coconut is their main livelihood.

3. The Philippines 

The Filipinos occupy third place in this top 5 with total manufacturing of 14’490,923 tons produced in 2020. Its cultivation area is around 3.56 million hectares which are distributed over the surface of 68 of the country’s 81 provinces.

Fun fact:

Indonesia, India and the Philippines and their respective cultivation areas are responsible for 73 % of the world’s coconut production.

4. Brazil 

Brazilians produced 2’458.839 tons in 2020. The cultivated area is 230 thousand hectares and the largest areas are located in the northern region and in the northeast of the country. In addition, this fruit produces 700 thousand of direct jobs that contribute to the economy of many people.

5. Sri Lanka 

Finally, Sri Lanka is the fifth largest coconut-producing country, mainly due to its climate and the quality of its soils, which are the main reasons for its high production. In 2020 they produced 2’233.600 tons.

There is an area in this country called “the coconut triangle”, which is the name given to the three districts where most coconuts are produced, these districts are Kurunegala, Colombo, and Puttalam.

Main coconut exporting countries 

In this section, you’ll see that Indonesia is not only the largest producer of coconut in the world, it is also the largest exporter, in fact, this fruit ranks seventh of the top 10 commodities exported by the country.  

In the following table, you can see the countries that exported coconut the most and the comparison of their exports from 2019 to 2020 (FAO).

CountriesProduction in tons in 2019Production in tons in 2020
Ivory Coast42.56829.372

Which countries import more coconut? 

Let us show you which countries imported coconut the most in 2020 according to the FAO.

  1. China is the main importer of this fruit with a total amount of 635,822 tons for a value of 296,493 US dollars.
  2. Thailand is the second importer of this fruit, in 2020 they imported an amount of 357,138 tons, that is, they increased the amount since in 2019 it was 133,764 tons.
  3. The third place is occupied by Malaysia; they had 288,195 of tons for a value of US$63,729.
  4. The United Arab Emirates is in the fourth rank as their coconut imports were 44,053 tons. In 2019, this amount was 43,629 tons, meaning that this country also increased the number of its imports.
  5. And, in the last place, there is the United States of America, as it imported 43,623 tons in total for a value of US$42,356.

What aspects are important in coconut cultivation? 


Coconut palms are characterized by growing in tropical regions, i.e. areas with a warm and humid climate. It’s recommended to plant them in places with temperatures between 27 °C and 35 °C.

Rainfall is of great importance, therefore, rainfall amounts can vary between 1200 to 2000 mm per year. Similarly, the coconut can grow with vitality in places with 1000 to 5000 mm of rainfall per year; however, large amounts of moisture can limit the amount of fruit that the palm germinates.

This palm has great adaptability, therefore, it can also grow in dry areas, as long as the soil has enough moisture to supply its needs.


Coconut requires moist, well-drained soils; therefore, it grows near rivers or in soils with groundwater flow. If these palms are grown in areas with different conditions such as low rainfall or lack of soil moisture, the palm must be continuously watered at surface soil level.

Likewise, the soil should have a light sandy loam texture and be over 1 meter deep.

Coconut propagation 

Coconut palms are propagated by seeds. Tall varieties germinate 60 to 200 days after cultivation, and dwarf coconut varieties germinate faster with an approximate germination time of 30 to 95 days.

Mature coconuts are able to retain all their properties and viability for 3 months floating in the sea, thus spreading to different parts of the world thanks to ocean currents.

Harvesting and conservation of coconuts 

The harvest of coconuts depends on the intended use of the fruit. On the one hand, if the objective is to obtain as much coconut water as possible, it should be harvested 6 to 8 months after the palm blossoms.

Alternatively, if the crop’s purpose is to have ripe coconuts, they are harvested 12 months after blossoming directly from the tree when they are ripe or when they fall to the ground.

Mature or dried coconuts can be stored in good condition at room temperature for 1 to 3 weeks. For transport over long distances, as in the case of exports and imports, it is recommended to use cold storage to ensure that they are well preserved.


As you have seen, there are many reasons to call coconuts the gift of nature, and not only do they benefit the human body, but they also represent a great source of the economy in many countries. Anyway, coconut is great, isn’t it?