The coconut grove at Waipouli, Kaua‘i's Eastside, is seen here.

The coconut grove at Waipouli, Kaua‘i’s Eastside, is seen here.

Early Hawaiians used almost the entire coconut tree for a variety of purposes. Besides the obvious food and water reasons, coconut trees also provided materials for housing, canoe-building, religious practices, hula instruments, and the list goes on. Here are some interesting facts about this resourceful plant, gathered from The Library of Congress:

  • Every bit of the coconut is used. As a result, coconuts are called the “Tree of Life” and can produce drink, fiber, food, fuel, utensils, musical instruments and much more.
  • When intra-venous solution was in short supply, doctors during World War II and Vietnam used coconut water in substitution of IV solutions.
  • Botanically, the coconut palm is not a tree since there is no bark, no branches, or secondary growth. A coconut palm is a woody perennial monocotyledon with the trunk being the stem.
  • Possibly the oldest reference is from Cosmas, a 5th century AD Egyptian traveler. He wrote about the “Indian nut” or “nut of India” after visiting India and Ceylon, Some scholars believe Cosmas was describing a coconut.
  • Soleyman, an Arab merchant, visited China in the 9th century and describes the use of coir fiber and toddy made from coconuts.
  • In 16th century, Sir Francis Drake called coconut “nargils,” which was the common term used until the 1700s when the word coconut was established.
  • It takes 11-12 months for the coconut to mature.
  • At one time, scientists identified over 60 species of Cocos palms. Today, the coconut is a monotypic with one species, Cocos However, there are over 80 varieties of coconut palms, which are defined by characteristics such as dwarf and tall.
  • Coconut growing regions are as far north as Hawai‘i and as far south as Madagascar.

Source: The Library of Congress