The Coconut Palm
The seedling grows very rapidly, producing leaves from the growing point at the tip of the stem. Early leaves are ‘entire’, which means that each has a single large blade comprising leaflets that are joined at the edges. Later leaves display separated lower leaflets, while the upper ones remain joined. Before long, a leaf emerges on which all the leaflets are separated, and this form of leaf is referred to as a frond. Eventually the trunk will be ringed at intervals by leaf scars.
Flowering begins after 6-7 years. Inflorescences (flowering heads) are borne in the leaf axils (where the leaf meets the stem). As the flowers contain nectaries and are sweet scented, it is thought that they may attract insects for pollination. However, as the pollen is light and dry, there may also be some wind pollination.
Coconut palms can grow as tall as 30m and flower 13 times a year, producing a harvest of as many as 65-75 fruits, ready to be harvested for one of the many uses described below.