Scientific Name Cocos nucifera
Order / Family Arecales: Arecaceae
Local Names Mnazi (Swahili)
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is an erect palm in the family Arecaceae which is grown its fruits, used primarily for the extraction of coconut oil for use in cooking. The coconut palm has an erect or slightly curved stem which grows from a swollen base. The stem is smooth, light gray in color and has prominent leaf scars. The stem is topped with a crown of 60–70 spirally arranged leaves. The leaves are long (up to 7 m/23 ft), pinnately divided and composed of 200–250 tapering leaflets. The inflorescence is a spike produced at the leaf axil with 20–60 branches, each with a female flower at the base and many male flowers. The fruit is a drupe containing a single seed. It is ovoid in shape with three sides divided by ridges. The exocarp and the mesocarp make up the husk of the coconut. The seed is protected by a thick, stony shell, or endocarp, and is partially filled with a liquid known as coconut water. The edible endosperm is white and meaty and can be between 1.0 and 2.5 cm (0.4–1.0 in) thick. Coconut palms can reach a height of 30 m (98 ft), produce up to 75 fruits a year, and live for up to 90 years. The origin of the coconut is unknown although the center of genetic diversity lies in Southeast Asia.
Coconut needs a continuous supply of water, which can be provided by regular rainfall of about 1250 mm per annum, or from ground water (at a depth of 1-3 m). It can not tolerate water logging. The northern Kenya coast receives only a rainfall of 750-1000 mm and this restricts production. Coconut grows best at average temperatures of around 26-27°C. Because of its temperature requirements, the coconut palm cannot normally grow above 750 m. However, near to the equator and in areas where other conditions are favourable for coconut development, it is possible to grow the crop up to about 1300 m. Growth is stimulated by a sufficient supply of chlorine in the soil. The coconut palm can withstand up to 1% salt in the soil.
These conditions are generally found in tropical and subtropical coastal regions with little rainfall. Coconut palms can also grow on deep, water-logging free, alluvial soil, away from the coast - yet low chlorine content in the soil could have negative effects. Consider these conditions when choosing a site.
Depending on the site, coconut palms can be cultivated on agroforestry systems. As a plant of the upper storey, with essential light requirements, the coconut palm towers above such crops as citrus, cacao and others
This tall coconut tree bears fruit in 6-7 years and produces around 60-80 coconuts per palm, each year. It is drought-tolerant, and the color of the fruits varies from green to yellow and orange to brown.
East coast tall produces around 60-70 coconuts on each palm every year and takes 6-8 years to yield fruits. This tall coconut tree needs well-drained, loamy soil to thrive.
Hybrid of Malayan and Panama; Maypan is a cold-hardy variety, producing medium to large-sized coconuts. Growing up to 20-meters, this variety is also resistant to lethal yellowing disease.
Leathery fronds of tiptur tree produce 6-12 inches long fruits. It starts bearing fruits in 6-7 years from the planting and produces 70-80 coconuts on each palm, every year. It is one of the best coconut tree variety to grow.
Producing fruits in 3-4 years, this dwarf variety can yield around 50-70 drupes per palm each year. Each crown of this tree consists of 20-28 leaves. Avoid growing this palm tree in the wind prone areas, as it may get damaged due to strong winds.
This palm tree yields around 60-70 coconuts per palm and begins fruiting in 3-4 years. Its drupes are dark green and resistant to root wilt disease.
This palm has a yield of 50-60 coconuts on each palm per year and starts bearing fruits after 3-4 years. It is native to Indonesia and is resistant to lethal yellowing disease.
This tropical ornamental tree is popular for its long fronds and a swollen trunk base. Its unique leaf arrangement makes it different from others and has a large bulb at its lower stem. Thanks to its durable nature, it has earned the name- Tough nut.
Other coconut varieties include, VHCI coconut, Macapuno coconut and King coconut
coconut growing in Kenya
In Kenya, majority of the coconut trees are found in the Coastal Counties of Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu. Taita Taveta, a Coastal highland County also has a small population of coconut trees; with the area under production continually increasing on yearly basis. Other areas with potential for coconut production include Busia and Homa Bay in the Lake Victoria region and Tharaka Nithi in Eastern region. The total area under coconut farming in Kenya is estimated to be 200,000 acres. Many (92%) of the trees are in the ages of 20‐60 years. The rest (8%) of the coconut tree population is beyond the economic age limit of 60 years, and are either low nut producers or non‐productive at all.
coconut growing in Tanzania
In Tanzania coconut is grown along the eastern parts of the country including Tanga, Morogoro, Lindi, Coast Region and Dar es Salaam as well as Mtwara and all regions of Zanzibar and othe potential regions including Mbeya particularly in Kyela, Kigoma, Mwanza and Musoma.
About 95 per cent of the crop is grown and produced by small-scale farmers who own an average of a hectare. Medium and large-scale producers account for only 5 per cent of the coconut production in Tanzania.
Coconut growing in Uganda
Their varieties of coconut are based on place of origin, shape, and size of the palms. Some of the coconut palm varieties include; the dwarf coconut palms like Malayan dwarf.
Coconut is generally regarded as a source of healthy fat. The meat contains protein and fiber, as well as some essential minerals such as:
Two tablespoons of fresh, shredded coconut contain the following nutrients:
One piece of fresh coconut meat measuring 2" x 2" x 1/2 (45g) provides 159 calories, 1.5g of protein, 6.8g of carbohydrates, and 15.1g of fat. Coconut is an excellent source of, fibre potassium, manganese, and selenium.
The coconut palm is a tropical plant and is generally grown in humid, tropical regions. It grows optimally in areas with an annual mean temperature of 27°C (80.6°F) with in excess of 2000 hours of sunlight per year. The palm will thrive in a wide range of soils from sand to clay as long as they are well draining and well aerated with a pH between 4.3 and 8.0. Although palms are often found growing on sandy beaches, they can be successfully grown inland but will not tolerate freezing temperatures.
Coconut palms are propagated exclusively from seed. The seeds are ready for planting when the coconut milk can be heard sloshing around inside the seed when it is shaken. Seeds are germinated by planting in seed beds before transferring to a polythene bag or nursery beds after germination. Seeds should be planted on their sides in a shallow hole with enough soil to cover about one third of the seed. The seed should be watered regularly to prevent it drying out. Germination usually occurs after about 3 months but may take up to 6 months.
Coconut seedling can be transplanted from 6 months onwards or transferred to pots and grown further in the nursery. Trees require a wide spacing and are typically planted 8–9 m (26–30 ft) apart allowing a further 8–9 m (26–30 ft) between rows. Dwarf varieties can be spaced closer together and are typically planted 7.5 m (25 ft) apart allowing another 7.5 m (25 ft) between rows
The nuts ripen during the entire year. As a rule, a harvest is carried out every 1-2 months, when the ripened coconuts are harvested directly from the tree - farmers should not wait until the nuts fall from the tree. The nuts are fully ripened when the coconut water can be clearly heard sloshing against the inside when they are shaken. Harvesting too early can unfavorably affect the quality of the copra.
Stock plants that are suitable seed providers produce 100 nuts per year and up to 180 g copra per nut. In drier areas yields are usually 15-20 nuts/tree/year. Harvest fully-ripened nuts intended to provide seeds after 11-12 months. Cut down nuts and lower them carefully (e.g.by rope). Do not allow the nuts to fall down. Following the harvest, store nuts for a short break in a covered, well- ventilated place.
Remove the husk first. Dry nuts on a clean surface to reduce moisture from 45% to 6%. In fine weather this takes about 5 days. Turn the pieces occasionally and cover them at night and in rainy weather.
Make a fire in the pit of the kiln. Use the coconut shells as fuel as they heat well and smoke little. Put the copra on a wire mesh platform over the fire and protect it from the rain. This takes about 4 days.