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What to Know About the Hawaiian Coconut Palm Tree

Also known as Cocos nucifera, the Hawaii coconut palm tree is a Hawaiian staple that can be found in many tropical and subtropical regions. Hawaii is located just at the edge of the “Coconut Belt.” This article will cover everything you need to know about the Hawaii coconut palm tree to understand why this tree is important and loved by everyone in Hawaii.

About the Hawaii Coconut Tree

These coconut trees will either be tall coconut trees (which are more common) that reach 40ft in height, or they’re dwarf trees where their average height is 20ft.

To survive in tropical areas, coconut palm trees have to be strong enough to withstand storms and heavy winds. This is why Hawaii coconut palm trees have sturdy yet flexible trunks, so they can handle harsh environmental storms. Coconut trees are often recognized by their fronds (the leaves). They usually have around 20 to 30 leaves that can grow as long as 20ft in length!

The coconut palm tree doesn’t have a tap root or root hairs, but it does have thousands of adventitious roots. While the roots are only one centimeter, they can extend to up to five meters in depth.

The coconut tree has a rich Hawaiian history and is known as a “Canoe Plant” and can be traced back to the ancient Polynesian voyagers that discovered the Hawaiian Archipelago. “Canoe Plants” are the 27 plant species that the Polynesian ocean voyagers brought with them as they crossed the Pacific.

The Coconut Fruit

The delicious fruit that these palm trees give are called coconuts. These large circular-shaped fruits can weigh more than two kilograms. The exocarp is the outer layer of the coconut, and the fibers that cover the coconut is known as the mesocarp. Coconuts have an inner wood layer known as the endocarp that holds the endosperm, which is where the coconut water and flesh are located.

 When a coconut reaches six to seven months of age, the coconut water is safe and ready to drink. Drinking this too early can result in a bitter, tasteless drink since the fruit still needs its time to mature and develop. Coconut milk is different from coconut water because this is found when the water is mixed with the flesh to create coconut milk, which has a higher fat content.

Hawaiian Names for the stages of Coconut Fruit Growth

There are Hawaiian words that depict the fruit’s growth stages and they are as follows: 

  • ‘O ‘io: When the fruit is unripe, the flesh can be eaten with a spoon.
  • Hao hao: When the coconut is halfway mature but the shell and flesh are still soft and white.
  • Ho ‘ilikole: When the coconut is halfway ripe and the flesh can be eaten with red salt and poi.
  • Niu o’o: When the coconut is mature but the husk hasn’t dried yet.
  • Niu malo’o: When the coconut reaches maturity, the husk has dried, and the water is ready and available. During this stage, the meat is grated and used in cooking.
  • Niu ka’a: When the coconut gets old, doesn’t have water, and the flesh isn’t attached to the shell. Coconut oil is extracted during this stage.

Hawaii coconut palm trees are not only a popular Hawaiian fruit tree but also require maintenance and care to promote optimal growth. We at Island Tree Trimming have been providing professional tree service for the island of Kauai for over a decade. Get in touch with us today to receive a no-obligation quote to learn about how we can take care of your Hawaii coconut palm trees.

Coconut Trees in Hawaii - Island Tree Trimming
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