If you’ve ever been to the beaches of Hawaii, you’d have noticed the coconut trees right away. Super tall, branchless trees with long, fanning leaves and large, green fruits all growing at the top end. Coconuts are an essential part of island life. There really is nothing quite like the taste of a fresh coconut. They are highly nutritious and are full of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial fatty acids.
In this article, we’ve put together a list of interesting facts about coconuts. This fun, informative post is perfect for educating youngsters about this versatile and nutritionally dense fruit. We hope you enjoy reading through the list. Let’s get started!
1. Coconuts belong to the palm tree family
The Palm Tree family is a large family of perennial flowering plants that are endemic to tropical and subtropical climates. Only two members of this family bear fruits: coconuts and dates.
2. The term ‘Coconut’ has Portuguese origins
While coconut might sound like a simple word to you, its origins are quite interesting. The term originated from the Portuguese term coco, and guess what coco means? It refers to the skull or head.
But why would someone name a fruit after a skull? This is because coco or coca is also the name of a witch/ghost in Portuguese folklore. And because the strange, three-eyed appearance of coconuts somewhat bewildered these Portuguese sailors and explorers, they named these fruits coco.
3. Coconuts originated in Southeast Asia
While coconut trees are found on almost every continent today (except for Antarctica), they weren’t always this widespread.
These fruits were first discovered somewhere between 3,000 and 1,500 BCE on the islands of Southeast Asia.
This makes a lot of sense because the climate of this region was ideal for the growth of coconut trees.
4. Coconuts were introduced to the Americas in the 16th century
Call it fate or misfortune, but Americans didn’t get to enjoy coconuts for a long time after their eastern friends had. It wasn’t until the 16th century that these fruits first arrived in the Americas.
But how did they find their way here? They were brought to the Cape Verde Islands by Portuguese sailors. In 1553, the first coconut tree was planted in Brazil, South America. Thus, began a continent-wide introduction of these drupes.
5. Coconuts aren’t botanically recognized as nuts!
Because coconuts have nuts in their name, many people automatically assume them to be nuts, such as cashews, hazelnuts, or pistachios. But if you look at these botanically, you’ll realize that they’re drupes, not nuts.
Drupes are fruits that have soft flesh, with their seeds being surrounded by a tough shell or covering. Coconuts, having fulfilled all these criteria, are, therefore, regarded as drupes.
6. Coconuts can float on water!
Coconuts are large, heavy fruits, with their average weight being around 1.5 pounds. Even the idea that something that heavy could float on water sounds bizarre, doesn’t it?
However, there are two reasons behind these drupes staying afloat in water. First and foremost, their insides (the part that contains the fruit) are hollow, leaving room for air, which makes the whole fruit float.
The fibrous outer covering of coconuts is another reason why they can float on water.
7. It takes coconuts around a year to ripen fully
Most fruits take a month or two to grow from flowers into fruits, but coconuts are an exception to this rule. The fruits of coconuts take at least 11-12 months to develop fully.
Thankfully there are far too many coconut trees in the world to make this long fruition period problematic for us.
8. Coconuts are widely used in the culinary world
Although coconuts can easily be eaten raw, they’re also widely used in the culinary world. These fruits, and their byproducts, are used in the cuisines of Brazil, Hawaii, the Philippines, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Malaysia.
9. Coconut milk is one of the most common vegan milk varieties used globally
With the growing culture of veganism, many non-dairy milk varieties are available for consumption in the markets. Coconut milk is just one of the most commonly consumed non-dairy milk varieties, just like almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk.
10. Coconut water is one of the richest electrolyte sources in Nature!
Electrolytes are the combination of minerals responsible for all the cellular functions of our body, which is why it’s essential to include them in our diet. If you’re looking for a natural source of electrolytes, look no further than coconut water!
11. The leaves of coconut trees have their own uses as well!
Can you imagine how the long, fan-like leaves of coconut plants can be used by us? A hint: they’re not used as fans.
Instead, the villagers of the Maldives use them as a roofing material for their huts. The Maldivians also wrap food in these leaves before cooking them. In India, the most common use of these leaves is in brooms and toys.
12. Coconut trees are useful to us even after they die
So far, we’ve already learned about the diverse uses of coconut fruits, husks, and leaves. Which part are we yet to get to? The bark.
You’ll be surprised to learn that even the bark of these trees can serve us in many ways. An average coconut tree lives up to the age of 70, after which they’re fell to make space for new planting.
Very recently, experts started exploring the potential of these woods replacing timber, which resulted in the official launch of Coconut Timber or Cocotimber. You can witness their utilization in both the flooring and furniture industries.
13. The fibers extracted from coconuts are called coir
Starting from the fruit to the bark, every part of a coconut plant serves us in some way or the other. But what could possibly be the use of the brown fibrous husk that surrounds these fruits? We’re glad you asked because we have just the answer that’ll blow your mind away.
Coir, a fiber obtained from coconut husk, is widely popular around the world. While coconut fiber’s use in the clothing industry might not be prevalent, it is commonly used in making mats, brushes, and ropes and can even be used in filling mattresses.
14. Coconut husk can also be used as a mosquito repellant!
Extracting coir fibers from coconut husks is not a manual task that you can do at home. But if you want to know if there’s any way you can use leftover coconut husk by yourself, we have a better answer for you. They can also work as a mosquito repellant!
Yes, these husks can do that, but not on their own. The smoke that rises from burning coconut husks is believed to drive away all kinds of pests, including mosquitoes.
For this reason, many rural areas in the world burn coconut husks around their homes at bedtime to sleep peacefully.
15. Not all coconut trees are tall!
We agree that the coconut trees that you generally see are all excessively tall. However, when you go further and explore the world, you’ll learn that these palm trees are of two varieties: tall and dwarf.
While the taller varieties grow as much as 60-90 feet in height, the height of the dwarf ones ranges between 15-60 feet.
There was a time when the latter was considered a hybrid or an anomaly. It was only discovered later that these have been growing undiscovered in tropical and subtropical countries for a long time!
16. Coconut seeds are located in their eyes!
If you’ve ever broken a coconut open, did you find a seed inside it? We’re sure you didn’t, and yet it is claimed that the fruits of the coconut trees contain their seeds. So, where are these seeds hidden? Here’s where things get interesting.
On the top of the coconut shell, you must’ve noticed three eye-like structures gathered at a place. If you touch these eyes, you’ll notice how one out of the three is slightly softer (and might even have an opening). It is within this eye that the coconut seeds lay hidden.
And when you sow the fruits into the ground, the shoot will emerge from this very eye hole. Isn’t that such a cool seed spot?
17. Coconut seeds are dispersed by water
For those of you who aren’t aware of what seed dispersal is, it is a process in which the seeds of a plant are transported far and wide for a new plant to grow away from the parent plant.
This process is essential because too many plants growing at the same spot can lead to competition for resources (water, sunlight, etc.) and result in unhealthier plants.
While the seeds of most plants are dispersed by wind or the animals or birds that consume them, coconuts are one of the fruits whose main agent of dispersal is water! There’s a specific term for this kind of dispersal as well: Hydrochory.
Yes, you read that right. We’ve already discussed above that these fruits can float in water. What we might have forgotten to add is that these fruits can travel incredibly long distances.
Some studies indicate that coconuts floating on water for about 110 days can still germinate upon reaching the ground. Isn’t that something?
18. In Thailand, monkeys are trained to harvest coconuts
Humans have been training animals to do their bidding since the inception of time. Be it riding horses, carrying loads on donkeys, or using the milk, eggs, and meat of cattle animals, we’ve mastered the art of domestication.
However, Thailand took things to the next level by employing and training monkeys (Pig-tailed Macaques) to harvest coconuts for them! And the fascinating thing is that this practice isn’t recent but has been going on in the country for over 400 years!
19. In World War II, the Japanese used coconut grenades as weapons
Wars are seen as times of crisis and desperation, and World War II was no exception. In fact, there was a time during the war when the Japanese soldiers, who were facing a scarcity of weapons, cleverly invented a new one using coconuts.
They emptied out the inner flesh of these fruits and filled them with explosives. Then, they’d throw those coconuts on their enemies, calling them coconut grenades. It’s true what they say; desperate times call for desperate measures.
20. Indonesia is the leading coconut-producing country in the world
Coconut plants are fairly easy to grow, which is why they’re grown in over 90 different countries of the world.
But do you know which country is leading the global coconut production? It’s Indonesia, ranking first, and is closely followed by the Philippines and India, respectively. Together, these three Asian countries account for 72% of the total world’s coconut production.
Because Indonesia produces the most coconuts in the world, it should come as no surprise that they’re leading consumers of these fruits as well.
21. The Philippines is the largest producer and exporter of virgin coconut oil in the world
While Indonesia takes the lead in world coconut production, the Philippines, which comes second, has its own area of expertise. This country produces and exports the largest amount of virgin coconut oil every year.
22. Asia accounts for over 90% of the total global coconut production
If you dig up the list of all the leading coconut-producing countries in the world, you’ll find the first six names belonging to Asia.
In addition to being the origination point of coconuts, the continent also happens to be the center of its global production, accounting for over 90% of the coconuts grown in the world annually.
23. Hawaii and Florida are the only coconut-growing states in the United States
Having read about Asia’s coconut production, you’ll find that America isn’t as well-suited for the cultivation of these fruits as the latter; the United States is even less so.
Only two out of the 50 states of the nation are known to cultivate coconuts, namely Hawaii and Florida.
24. Coconut Octopuses are seasoned collectors of coconut shells
Just like humans, the octopuses are also keen collectors of things. Take coconut shells, for example.
Veined Octopuses, an octopus species that inhabit the tropical waters of the western Pacific Ocean, are known for collecting coconut shells and using them as shelters. Researchers have uncovered litters of coconut shells in the sandy bottom of their habitats, which is also why they’re referred to as Coconut Octopuses.
25. You can also make vinegar using coconut water
We’re sure all of you must have heard of apple cider vinegar, which is made by fermenting apple juice. However, did you know that apples are not the only fruits whose vinegar you can make? Yes, you’ve guessed it right. Coconut vinegar also exists!
Coconut vinegar is made by fermenting coconut water and is known to offer many health benefits to its consumers.
26. The Australians call coconuts the killer fruits!
It is no secret that coconuts are large, bulky fruits with a tough rind that can be wielded as a weapon against humans. But did you know that the free fall of these fruits could also pose a threat to life?
In the early 2000s, the sudden falling of these fruits on the beaches of Queensland, Australia, resulted in injuries to several visitors.
To prevent this threat of death by coconut, the beach authorities removed coconut trees from the beaches. In a newspaper article written on this incident, coconuts were humorously referred to as killer fruits.
27. Coconut trees are the national tree of the Maldives
While coconuts as fruits haven’t received the honor of being the national fruit of any country so far, their trees are way ahead of them. The Maldives has not only recognized the value of these trees but also celebrates them as the national tree of the country.
You can spot a coconut palm tree on both their national emblem as well as the coat of arms. The natives of the country believe these trees to be symbolic of livelihood, as every single part benefits them in some way or the other.
28. June 26th is celebrated as National Coconut Day
In addition to their fruits, coconuts also provide us with healthy water, milk, and oil. Keeping all this and the countless health benefits of these fruits in mind, the Coconut Coalition of the Americas (CCA) founded National Coconut Day in 2017.
National Coconut Day falls on June 26th every year, when we celebrate these fruits in all their versatility and diversity.
Wrapping it up
We’ve reached the end of our list of Coconut facts for kids. Coconut facts are useful for anyone, regardless of whether you’re a kid or an adult. After all, there’s really no such thing as too much information about coconuts.
With this, we wrap up our article. Today, we learned so much about the usefulness of coconuts, both the fruits and the other parts of the tree. If you found this article useful, don’t forget to share it! Your friends and family will thank you for it.