Coconuts are well known throughout the world. They are the iconic symbol of a tropical environment, hanging in bunches on enormous coconut palm trees. Did you ever stop to wonder where in the world coconuts grow?
Coconuts grow on the coconut palm tree. These trees typically only grow in tropical regions from 25 degrees north latitude to 25 degrees south latitude. Coconut palms grow in places like Australia, the Pacific Islands, Florida, the Caribbean, and Indonesia.
Read on to learn about all the regions of the world where coconut palm trees grow. We’ll also go over the best conditions to grow one yourself!
Why Coconut Palm Trees Only Grow In Certain Places
Before we get into all the places where you can find coconut trees, let’s talk about some of the basics of a coconut palm tree so you can understand just why they grow where they do.
Let’s get into it!
Coconut Tree Characteristics
There are two varieties of coconut trees: tall and dwarf. The tall version of this tree is the one we are all most familiar with. According to the University of Florida, it can reach heights of 100 feet!
For a more in-depth look at the coconut tree’s potential height, check out our article about how tall coconut trees grow.
Because coconut palms often live near shorelines, the trunk is usually bending one way or the other due to the wind. In addition, the coconut palm is thicker at its base to better withstand the wind without being knocked over.
The leaves of a coconut palm tree are huge. They can grow up to 18 feet long. That’s almost as long as your average giraffe is tall! The leaves are arranged in a spiraling pattern, each containing leaflets that can extend up to 5 feet long.
How Do Coconuts Form On The Coconut Palm Tree?
If you’ve ever seen a coconut, it’s hard to imagine how something like that could grow on a tree. Coconuts are big, weighing in at about 3 pounds when fully mature. The enormous size of the coconut palm tree is the only thing that allows it to handle such heavy fruit.
Wait…fruit? Yes, coconuts are considered a fruit. And just to add to the confusion, they’re also considered a tree nut!
Coconuts form from a canoe-shaped flower pod. When the flower pods open, it contains both the male and female flowers on the same pod. The male flowers open first, and then the female flowers.
The flowers contain sweet nectar that attracts bees, which often travel between the male and female flowers. If the female flower gets pollinated, it will eventually turn into a coconut.
The entire process takes about 6 months before the coconut can be harvested for drinking. However, this is not a fully mature coconut. Those can take over a year, and will typically turn brown and fall to the ground on their own.
Coconut palm trees have a huge advantage over non-tropical trees – they produce fruit year-round. Every lunar cycle new flowers will emerge. As long as they are pollinated, new coconuts will form.
If you are looking at a coconut palm tree from below, you’ll be looking at the oldest coconuts. The new coconuts form in a spiraling pattern, similar to the leaves, and continue to spiral upward as they form.
Climate And Soil Requirements To Grow A Coconut Palm Tree
If you happen to live in one of the regions discussed below, you might be interested in growing a coconut palm tree yourself. Additionally, this will also clarify the common places where coconuts grow as well.
Without further ado, what exactly is needed to grow a coconut palm tree?
Temperature: The best temperature for germination happens around 95℉, however, according to Penn State University anywhere that has an average temp around 80℉ will do just fine. If the temperature drops below 72℉ while growing, growth could be stunted.
Soil: Coconut palm trees prefer soil that has a pH between 5.0 and 8.0. They can grow in just about any soil as long as it is well-draining.
Sun: Coconut palms love the sun! They prefer full sun and do not grow well under shady conditions.
Timing: Since coconut palms grow in tropical regions, they can be planted at any time of the year. However, the warm and wet summer months tend to yield the best results.
Rainfall: The amount of water a tree receives naturally is an important factor in where it can thrive. Coconut trees prefer areas with a little heavier rainfall, around 30-50 inches per year.
For more information about watering your coconut tree, check out our article on watering requirements for your coconut tree.
Fertilizer: Coconut palm trees will thrive with a fertilizer like Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Palm Plant Food. It is rich in magnesium, iron, and manganese, which help palm trees grow quickly. According to a study published in the Journal of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, boron is also a highly effective fertilizer.
9 Common Places That Coconuts Grow
Now that we know a little more about the amazing coconut palm tree, let’s check out where it grows!
Florida is one of only two states in the United States that can grow coconut palm trees. The other is Hawaii, but we’ll get to Hawaii later.
Coconut palm trees grow best in humid environments where the temperature averages around 80℉. They love the sun and prefer to grow on ocean shores since they are tolerant of salty conditions.
Sounds like Florida to me!
Even though Florida has a lot of good stuff to offer coconut palm trees, only the southern tip of the state offers optimal growing conditions.
Natural coconut palms are rarely found inland because they evolved to disperse via the ocean currents. The only way you will find them inland is if a human carried the coconut seed and planted it.
Needless to say, coconuts prefer to live on coastal shores. In Florida, you can find coconut palm trees on the east coast from Stuart down to Key West and on the west coast from Punta Gorda down to Key West.
Did you know that palm trees can grow in New Orleans? Typically however, coconut trees are not commonly grown there.
Hawaii may be a part of the United States, but the islands have a very rich, deep-rooted culture that differs vastly from that of folks living in the contiguous states.
The coconut palm tree is not native to Hawaii. It was first brought over by the original Polynesian settlers and thrived in the tropical climate.
Nowadays, coconut palm trees can be found on all 8 islands of Hawaii – Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Maui, Kaho’olawe, and Hawai’i. They can also be found on the uninhabited island of Kauo.
Many of the ancient coconut palm trees on the islands were planted at the request of kings or chiefs of the island to shade their royal fish ponds. Some ancient groves like the Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove are forbidden to walk through due to the dangers of falling coconuts!
Coconut trees provided early settlers with an abundance of material. They used every inch of the tree to make things like:
- Musical Instruments
- Roofing Material
They also used the coconut tree for food such as coconut milk, meat, and oil.
Unless you have a deep understanding of geography, many of us think of Africa as a big desert interspersed with savannahs and jungles. We think of elephants, cheetahs, crocodiles, and gazelles.
But Africa has much more to offer than deserts and savannahs. Surrounding the famous Congo River is the world’s second-largest rainforest. And, along its warmer coasts, you can find coconut palm trees.
Since the equator runs directly across Africa, it’s no surprise that coconut palm trees have flourished along the warm, tropical coasts of Africa.
However, just like Hawaii, coconut palms are not native to Africa.
They were brought by traders and colonists who often used coconuts as a means of fresh water on long voyages across the sea. Coconuts contain the most water when they are young and green.
It’s possible that older coconuts were chucked overboard and floated until they reached the coasts. According to the University of Florida, coconuts can float for months before reaching shore and still be able to germinate into a tree.
In Africa, you can find coconut palm trees in the western and eastern coastal regions.
West Coast: You can find coconut palms from the west coast of Senegal down to the northern and central coastal regions of Angola.
East Coast: Starting along the southern tip of Somalia, you can find coconut palm trees down to the northern regions of South Africa.
Why not the southern and northern coasts?
Mostly because it is out of the coconut palm’s preferred comfort zone. They like to stick to the 25°N and 25°S latitudes, and the northern and southern coasts of Africa are a bit out of range.
However, some coconut palms can be found in areas as far north as Egypt and Tunisia and as far south as the southern tip of South Africa.
Asia is a huge continent but most of it cannot be inhabited by our beloved coconut palm tree. Any country above Pakistan and China is just too cold for the coconut tree to survive.
According to Duke University, despite this, Asia produces over 80% of the global coconut production.
The three largest producers of coconuts include:
- Indonesia – #1
- Philippines – #2
- India – #3
But these aren’t the only regions in Asia that have coconut palm trees swaying in the wind and giving off those tropical vibes.
Sri Lanka is the world’s 4th largest producer of coconuts. Located just below India, this warm, humid island contains the perfect environment to make coconut palm trees happy.
You can also find coconut palm trees in southern Bangladesh, western and southern Myanmar, and along the coastal regions of Malaysia.
On the eastern coast of Asia, coconut palm trees grow along the coasts of Vietnam and eastern China up to about Quanzhou. They also grow on the island of Taiwan.
Australia has a lot going on – scary spiders, scary snakes, scary sharks. Luckily, there is something that grows on the island of New Guinea that’s not so scary – coconuts!
Papua New Guinea is located north of Australia. The island is divided nearly in half, with the western half belonging to Indonesia and the eastern half being part of Australia.
Coconut palm trees grace the coasts of this entire island and can be found inland as well since Papua New Guinea is the 7th largest producer of coconuts in the world!
Located just below the equator, Papua New Guinea has all the right conditions for coconut trees – warmth all year round, humidity, and plenty of rainfall.
Mexico & Central America
Mexico and the countries of Central America have optimal growing conditions for the coconut palm tree. Though both are located in North America, the countries of Central America contain a distinct regional difference in both culture and history.
Coconut palm trees are not native to Mexico or Central America. Don’t worry, we’ll get to where coconuts originated from later.
According to the Washington University in St. Louis, coconuts were probably brought to Mexico during the colonial period, when travelers from the Philippines brought them to the west coast of Mexico.
Jalisco, located on the west coast of Mexico, is one of the largest producers of coconuts in the country. Coconut trees can also be found on the east coast of Mexico, but are easier to find on the west coast.
The countries of Central America include Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Coconut palm trees can be found in all of Central America. The warm, humid, tropical climate provides the perfect habitat for coconut trees to thrive.
South America is well known for its production and distribution of coffee beans. What would we do without our morning cup of joe! But South America also produces a lot of coconuts from various countries.
You can find the tropical coconut palm tree along the northwestern, northern, and eastern coast of South America. Specifically, coconuts grow in the following countries:
- French Guiana
The equator runs right through the top of the continent, making it the perfect climate for coconut palms.
Although areas like Argentina and Uruguay have warm temperatures throughout the year, the average temperature in Argentina during the summer season is 75℉ and even colder in Uruguay at 65℉. These temperatures cannot sustain the coconut tree.
It almost feels like cheating to include Europe. The continent is definitely too cold for coconut palm trees, right? Right?
Every part of Europe is too cold for coconut palm trees except the Canary Islands, which are a part of Spain but located closer to Africa.
The Canary Islands are located west of Africa, directly across from the border separating Morocco from Western Sahara. The islands are located a bit out of the coconut palm’s comfort zone, but you can still find them on the island.
Tenerife is probably the most well-known area of the Canary Islands for having coconut trees. The volcanic island provides coconut palms with coastal areas and many sunny days.
Where Did Coconut Trees Originally Come From?
You may have noticed that for most of the areas mentioned above, we said that coconut palm trees were not native to the area. But we were suspiciously quiet about Asia…
A plant evolutionary biologist at Washington University in St. Louis took a look at the DNA from over a thousand coconuts collected all over the world. What he found was that there are two distinct coconut DNAs.
One from the Pacific Ocean Basin and the other from the Indian Ocean Basin. This led to the conclusion that coconut palm trees probably originated in two regions: the Philippine islands and southern India/Sri Lanka.
From those two regions, coconuts have spread to pretty much everywhere they can possibly grow, and for good reason.
The amount of things you can get from a single coconut is amazing:
- Potable Water
- Flotation Device
That list might not seem as impressive nowadays with our advanced technology, but to pioneers, travelers, and native people, the coconut was a fruit of life.
So, naturally, wherever people went they wanted to take this amazing fruit with them! That’s how the coconut spread from two single regions to pretty much everywhere spanning just above the Tropic of Cancer and just below the Tropic of Capricorn.
For a closer look at how coconuts spread from these two regions, you can check out the map from the DNA study mentioned above.
Do All Palm Trees Grow Coconuts?
If you’re cruising along somewhere in central or northern Florida, you may be wondering why there are no coconuts on the palm trees?
There are over 2,000 species of palm trees, but only one grows coconuts: the coconut palm tree. Other palm trees have different fruits that we are familiar with such as dates, acai berries, and peach palms.
If you live in a region where coconut trees can survive, or if you would like one indoors, you can purchase them online like Root 98 Warehouse’s Coconut Tree. If you live near coconut trees, you can also plant one simply by burying a viable coconut in the ground. In 3-6 months it will sprout into a whole new tree.
Did you know that you can even grow certain types of palm trees in New York? Unfortunately, you can’t grow a tropical coconut tree in the climate, however.
That’s A Wrap!
Coconut palm trees are found mostly between the latitudes of 25°N and 25°S. They prefer areas along the coast that are sunny, humid, and warm.
These amazing trees provided so much to early settlers and colonists who used the coconut for water, food, rope, and so much more.
Although the coconut tree originated in the Philippines and southern India and Sri Lanka, it has spread far and wide, covering every continent except Antarctica.
Here are the 9 most common places that coconuts grow:
- Florida – Southern tip
- West- and East-coasts of Africa
- Asia – Especially in the Philippines, Indonesia, and India
- Papua New Guinea
- Mexico – Especially in Jalisco
- Central America
- South America – Especially in Brazil
- Europe – The Canary Islands only
If you’re looking for the world’s largest concentration of coconut palm trees, you’ll want to look at the Philippines, Indonesia, or India.
But if you’d rather stay local in the United States, you can hit up any of the islands of Hawaii or the southern tip of Florida.
Ahmed, A., Ibrahim, A., & Hussein, S. (2019). Detection of Palm Tree Pests Using Thermal Imaging: A Review. Machine Learning Paradigms: Theory and Application, 801.
Ledo, A. d. S., Passos, E. E. M., Fontes, H. R., Ferreira, J. M. S., Talamini, V., & Vendrame, W. A. (2019). Advances in Coconut palm propagation. Propagation, 41(2).
Marina, A. M., Che Man, Y. B., & Amin, I. (2009, October). Virgin coconut oil: emerging functional food oil. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 20(10), 481-487.
Moura, J. Z., Prado, R. M., Benvindo, R. N., & Alencar, L. C. (2013, February 06). Applying boron to coconut palm plants: effects on the soil, on the plant nutritional status and on productivity boron to coconut palm trees. Journal of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, 13(1).