Repost: How To Read A Palm


Coconut Sprout

I recently participated in a weekly Twitter discussion group called Garden Chat.  This particular chat was hosted by Teresa Watkins of Earth Shattering Gardening and the subject was fruit trees.  Most of the conversation had to do with apples and pears, best growing practices, advice, and such.  That got me thinking about the fruit trees — the only fruit trees — I currently have growing in my Florida yard.

Here’s a look back at a tribute to Cocos nucifera, the coconut palm.

Coconut Palm Sprout

A few days ago, Joe and I found a coconut that had already begun to sprout. Within days of planting it halfway in the dirt, and in a location where it could receive plenty of water and heat, the tightly curled sprout had stretched open (above). It’s amazing to think that this tender green is strong enough to pierce the coconut’s hard shell.

On the other hand, it’s not so surprising when one considers the gift that is a coconut palm.

According to Dr. T. Ombrello, a biology professor at Union County College, the coconut palm is considered to be one of the most useful trees in the world. Parts of the tree can be converted into roofing, fencing, alcohol, shoes, soil amendments, mulch, and so much more. In fact, a recent study indicated 360 uses for the tree, half of which were for food. Even Marco Polo had something to say when he first came across this tree: “One of these nuts is a meal for a man, both meat and drink.”

A close-up of the coconut palm "burlap," a kind of fibrous cloth.

A close-up of the coconut palm “burlap,” a kind of fibrous cloth.

When a coconut palm is about five years old, it begins to produce both male and female flowers. The pistillate, or female, flowers, are large and spherical. The staminate, or male, flowers are smaller. Initially, the flowers are hidden by a sheath. When the sheath begins to split, it seems to resemble a corn husk.

Coconut Palm Sheath

Coconut Palm Sheath 2

Within a day, the cream-colored flower branches, or inflorescence, have emerged — and bees are busy at work.

Inflorescence Yellow

As the inflorescence is exposed to sunlight, it turns a vibrant green.

Inflorescence Green

Don’t be fooled by the frail-looking flower branch. Eventually, it will hold the weight of a whole lot of coconuts. In the course of a year, each coconut palm tree can produce between 25 and 75 coconuts.

What a lovely bunch of coconuts, courtesy of Cocos nucifera.

What a lovely bunch of coconuts, courtesy of Cocos nucifera.

That’s 25 to 75 possibilities of coconut water, milk, meat, and, of course, more palms.

Coconut Sprout 2

The Biggest Seed I Ever Planted


 Seed Memories

It’s seed starting time — and by now, I should have flats of impatiens and petunias and geraniums planted in my Long Island potting shed, with dahlias, cosmos, and gazanias scheduled for the weeks ahead.  But as I’ve said in previous posts, this is a season of a different kind — in so many ways.

For starters, I’m away from the potting shed.  Instead, I have south Florida — and as my northern garden and gardening friends have shivered and shoveled during this winter’s harshness, south Florida has enjoyed exceptional warmth.  By northern standards, it feels like summer.

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