Coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) were originally native to coastal areas of southeast Asia and grow naturally within 23 degrees latitude north and south of the equator. How fast they mature depends on whether or not they grow in a climate similar to that in which they evolved.
Climate and Maturation
Introduced coconuts thrive in warm, humid tropical climates with an average temperature between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This corresponds to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10B through 11. Coconut palms do not like dry climates, and in the United States they are typically found on the southern tip of Texas and Southern Florida. Average temperatures of 70 F can impede their growth, and frost will kill seedlings and young palms. They are considered invasive in southern Florida but not in the Pacific Islands where it is believed that the large size of their seeds and their low numbers make it easy for humans to control their spread. Coconut palms are not truly invasive because they cannot spread inland without human help.
Coconut palms are found naturally in coarse sand, but they can grow in a wide variety of soils. They like full sun but do not tolerate drought well. They are tolerant of urban growing conditions and make a useful lawn tree or a border to a street that doesn't have a sidewalk. They are especially tolerant of salt and make good beach trees. In the interest of safety, coconut trees in public areas and yards should have the hard and heavy fruit bunches trimmed before it begins falling.
If they have good soil and proper climate, coconut palms grow from 12 to 20 inches a year for their first 40 years, but their most rapid growth occurs from their second through fifth year. A stem appears under the crown after the third or fourth year. They begin to flower after four to five years, begin bearing coconuts after six years, and reach full coconut-bearing maturity in 12 to 13 years.
Coconut palms have separate male and female flowers. They produce more female flowers as they get older. Coconuts appear one year after female flowers set and take about eight to 10 months to ripen. Roughly 30 to 40 percent of the coconuts that set from flowers grow to full term. A mature tree will yield 50 to 80 coconuts.
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