The Coconut Palm tree whose scientific name is Cocos nucifera is one of the first and most memorable things I remember about Florida when I first visited along with the warm and balmy weather. During my vacations to Florida, I remember picking up coconuts off the ground and trying to get at the coconut juice by cutting off the tops with a machete. The outside cover was usually too tough. The pictures shown above are of Coconut Palm Trees on Sanibel Island, Downtown Ft Myers and the Edison-Ford Winter Estates in Ft. Myers.
I found out that there are over 150 different kinds of Coconut trees and they can grow up to 98 feet tall and live to be 100 years old. They are usually 20-30 ft tall and produce about 30 coconuts throughout the year. Coconut palm trees start producing sweet scented flowers when they are about 4-6 years old. The flowers are followed by fruits called coconuts which can be green, yellow, brown or bronze gold in color depending on their maturity and variety. Inside the coconut there is a nut filled with a layer of while coconut meat and sweet watery coconut milk. The coconut can take up to a year to ripen after it has matured.
Coconut Palms prefer tropical weather, humid conditions, sandy soil and salty air. They are found all around the world but mostly around the equatorial belt in countries in South Asia, South America and the Pacific Islands. They have been native to Florida since the 1500’s. They may have been brought here by visitors to the America’s several hundred years ago and thrived because of our sub tropical weather. The name coco may have come from the Spanish or Portuguese word “grin” which means “monkey face” or “human face”.
Coconut Palms are commercially grown and their coconuts or nuts are used for making copra which is made into coconut oil. Coconut oil can then be made into soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, cooking oil and other products. Coconuts can float in the water for long distances, survive and their seeds may begin to germinate or produce new trees. I found helpful information for this post at the Univ. of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. There is also a good website about coconut trees at coconut-info.net.