Coconut palms can be classified according to the size and stature of the palm, and are referred to as Talls and Dwarfs. They are also monoecious. In other words, they consist of male and female flowers on the same inflorescence (spadix) that develops within a woody spathe. Depending on the variety of the coconut trees, the male and female flowers develop at same or different times. As the coconut tree is propagated by seed, they are subjected to some variations which can be distinguished in the trees, fruits and leaves.
TALL COCONUT PALMS
Tall coconut palms are usually cross-pollinated, and are subjected to the most variations. They are classified by the location where they are grown, assuming that some uniformity in the population is developed in one location across several generations, adapting to drought, high rainfall, alkaline soil or resistance to various insects and diseases long established in the specific location. This is why they are sometimes classified as West African Tall, Malayan Tall and such. Tall coconut palms have longer economic lives than Dwarf trees, typically about 60-80 years, and can live up to 100 years old under favourable conditions. They also have larger fronds than Dwarf trees, so fewer Tall coconut trees can be planted per hectare of land. Tall coconut palms are also fairly resistant to diseases and pests, except some virus diseases, and thrive under different soil conditions. After six to eight years of planting, Tall coconut palms will begin to bear fruits.
Tall types function best as backdrop plantings, shade trees or street trees.
DWARF COCONUT PALMS
Dwarf coconut palms are mostly self-pollinated, and have fewer variations compared to Tall varieties. They are classified by the colour of the coconut fruits produced. As the name suggests, Dwarf coconut palms are smaller in stature than Tall varieties. Dwarf coconut palms have shorter economic lives than Tall palms and only live up to 60 years old. With smaller fronds, more Dwarf coconut trees can be planted per hectare of land. Compared to Tall coconut trees, Dwarf varieties cannot adapt as well to different soil conditions, and are more susceptible to diseases, although they do show good resistance to some virus diseases. However, they begin to bear fruits earlier, after only three years of planting. At about 10 years old, they come into regular fruiting. Similar to Tall varieties, the bigger the coconuts, the lesser number of fruits found per bunch.
HYBRID COCONUT PALMS
Hybrids are inter-varietal crosses between two morphological forms of coconut trees. In particular, hybrids from Dwarf and Tall, Tall and Tall varieties also produce high-yielding coconut palms. In general, hybrid coconut palms are more superior in terms of quality and quantity of copra production. They also contain the greatest amount of copra per nut. As such, they are usually selected for commercial planting. The hybrid crosses between Dwarf and Tall varieties have exhibited marked hybrid vigour by having the advantages found in both palms. As such, high yielding hybrid coconut trees are resistant to environmental stress, including drought and diseases. They also bear fruits after three to four years of planting. Compared to Dwarf and Tall varieties, hybrid coconut palms have more nut yields and higher copra production (Figure 4.2). The copra and oil produced are also of better quality.