The coconut tree belongs to the family of palm trees, and has over 2600 currently known plant species in it. Most palm trees (including coconut) grow in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates, but are so diverse; they even grow in deserts and rainforests.
The coconut tree has many uses, as a food, medicine, décor, and even cosmetics, and because of its wide usability, the tree is sometimes known as the “tree of life”. The tree has become increasingly adaptable, and can grow in many climates except when the temperature is extremely cold, during floods, or droughts.
The tree’s very tall structure is an adaptation that allows the tree to reach over the other trees (canopies) to receive sunlight. Although it survives in shady environments, it eventually grows higher than its surrounding trees in a competition for more sunlight.
The trunk of the coconut tree, which supports its entire weight, operates in almost the same way as the human spine. It is flexible and strong, allowing the coconut tree to lean over (the slightly curved look of the tree), but that and the strong network of roots prevent the tree from falling over.
The coconut seed has many features that allow it to grow anywhere it falls. Inside the coconut seed is a coconut milk, a whitish liquid similar to water that provides moisture (even in dry conditions) until the seedling sprouts.
The coconut seed, once it falls from the tree, is light enough to be transported by water or wind, and can then sprout wherever it lands.
The coconut seed has a very strong air filled stringy (full of fibers) shell, that protects the seed inside. This protective covering ensures that even during dry weather, or in seawater, that the seed is healthy enough to germinate.
The coconut seed is tough enough to germinate on its own, without the help of any outside forces, like cracking of the sprout.
The coconut tree can survive almost any time of soil, as long as it is not dense or compact. The tree will grow well as long as the soil or sand drains easily, and is lightly acidic.
The root system of the coconut tree grows laterally, in the top 5 feet of soil. After that, the roots burrow themselves deep into the earth. The root system can thrive in shallow layers of soil going down only about 10 to 18 inches below the surface, or even in deep soil.
The coconut tree’s general appearance is its main adaptation to the climatic changes of heat and heavy winds. Its large branchless fronds and thin leaves are ideal for the extreme wind conditions. Its trunk and its strong roots, allow the tree to sway without falling.
The leaves of the coconut tree also have another classic feature common to most tropical rainforest plants. The ‘drip-tips’ at the ends of the long thin leaves, and their slightly waxy nature, allows rainwater to drain off the leaf quickly.
The bark of the tree is very thin and smooth. This adaptation is to the wet and hot weather conditions of the tropical rainforests. The bark does not need to protect itself against the loss of moisture because there is plenty of it already.
It is known as one of the most wind tolerant trees in the world and is therefore great for the tropical climate, which have a yearly cycle of wet and dry seasons but is also great living on sandy shores.