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(Cocos nucifera), a plant of the family Palmaceae. The trunk measures 20–25 m in height and 50–60 cm in diameter. The leaves are pinnate and 3–6.5 m long. The flowers, which are unisexual and on spikes, are gathered into panicles (length, up to 1.2 m). The fruit is a coconut, which is a drupe weighing 1.5–2.5 kg. The outer shell of the fruit is fibrous. The inner shell is hard and has three pores that lead to three ovules. Only one ovule develops into a seed. Initially the seed endosperm is liquid and transparent. Drops of oil appear in the endosperm, which then becomes a milky emulsion, thickens, and solidifies.
The ripe endosperm, containing 30–35 percent oil, is used to produce copra. The oil from copra is of great dietary and industrial importance. The solid residue of the copra is used as fodder. The endosperm of unripe coconuts yields coconut milk, which is used as a beverage and in food. Sugar, syrup, and wine are produced from the sap of the inflorescence. Coir, used in the manufacture of ropes, mats, and brushes, is obtained from the fibrous husk of the coconut and from the leaf fibers. The wood from the trunks is an excellent building material.
Since antiquity the coconut palm has been cultivated in the tropics of both hemispheres, primarily in the Philippines, the Malay Archipelago, the Malay Peninsula, India, and Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The area devoted to the cultivation of coconut palms is 3.4 million hectares. The coconut palm thrives along sea-coasts. Coconuts that fall into the water are dispersed by sea currents. Formerly, many different species were known as coconut palms. They are now assigned to other closely related genera, such as Arikuryroba, Butia, and Syagrus, and to other families of palms.
REFERENCESZhukovskii, P. M. Kul’turnye rasteniia iikh sorodichi, 3rd ed. Leningrad, 1971.
Siniagin, I. I. Tropicheskoe zemledelie. Moscow, 1968.
Menon, K. P. V., and K. M. Pandalai. The Coconut Palm: A Monograph. Ernakulam, 1958.
S. S. MORSHCHIKHINA