The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) belongs to the Arecaceae family and is the only species of the genus Cocos.

Coconuts are widely distributed around the tropics, both as a result of natural dispersal and by intentional and unintentional movement by sea-going travellers.

Coconut in Fiji Credit: Charlotte Lusty, Global Crop Diversity Trust
Coconut in Fiji. Credit: Charlotte Lusty, Crop Trust

In addition to the large edible fruits (botanically not a nut but a drupe), the palms provide many other useful products.

The coconut palm is diploid (2n=32) and monoecious, with inflorescences that bear male and female flowers. There are two main types.

Tall palms are normally cross-pollinating and heterozygous, while dwarf palms are normally self-pollinating and homozygous.

Coconuts are conserved ex situ in field genebanks, but are propagated from seed, which usually requires controlled pollination.

Major coconut collections

The largest genebank collection is held by the Station de Recherche Marc Delorme, Centre National de Recherches Agronomiques in Cote d’Ivoire. The USDA holds smaller collections in Florida and Puerto Rico. The International Coconut Genetic Resources Network promotes collaboration for the conservation and use of coconut genetic resources and is made up of 39 country members.

Documents relevant to coconut