Last Updated on September 17, 2021 by Grow with Bovees
There’s a chance that everyone knows what palm trees look like even if they’ve not seen one in person.
And since palm trees produce coconuts, most people assume that a coconut tree and a palm tree are the same.
The fact is, there is a difference between palm trees and coconut trees.
In this article, you will learn the differences between the two types of trees and their different characteristics.
What is a Palm Tree?
All trees that fall under the class Palmaceae are considered palm trees.
Class Palmaceae has more than 3,000 species of palm trees. These palm trees grow all over the world.
In the United States, they are primarily found in Florida and California.
Palm trees are primarily identified by their leaves. Palm tree leaves have a general fan-like shape, and they all grow from one point. The length of the leaves differs between species.
Other characteristics of palm trees vary widely between species.
Some species are short and survive as indoor potted palms, while other palm trees can grow more than 70ft in height.
Others may have thick trunks that are covered in scales, while others are thin and have a reed-like appearance.
While palm species may have stark differences in their physical appearance, they share in structure and form internally. In addition, palm trees also bear fruits and flowers as part of their reproductive cycle.
Some palm trees may look less like trees and more like shrubs and vines. Palm fronds have two variations in their structure generally. Some varieties may have oblong-shaped leaves that look like feathers.
These leaves are larger and more spread out radially, growing from the edge of the stem.
Other varieties of the palm tree family have pointed and narrow leaves that grow outward from the stem.
Palm trees also exhibit a great variation in the height and thickness of the trunks. Some species are short, while others can grow beyond 190ft in length.
Coconut Palm Trees
Most people consider every palm tree to be a coconut tree. However, a specific palm tree species bears coconuts, hence the name coconut tree.
The scientific name for the coconut tree is Cocos nucifera, and they exist in two varieties; the tall and dwarf varieties. For both tall and dwarf varietals of Cocos nucifera, the coconuts produced vary in shape, color, and size.
The coconut tree is similar to a palm tree. It’s also the most grown palm tree species in the world today. Coconut trees are strong, and their roots, as are palm tree roots, extend deep into the soil for firm anchoring.
Coconut trees are robust and can even live up to 100 years. For this reason, in some locales, they are referred to as the 3 generation tree, meaning they have the ability to support 3 generations of a family.
Coconut trees grow in the tropical areas in Florida as they require tropical environments with the right amount of humidity and moisture. The coconut fruit is considered a fruit and falls under the category of drupes.
The drupe consists of an outer skin known as an exocarp, a succulent layer in the middle known as a mesocarp, and a woody inner part known as the endocarp.
Coconut trees have multiple uses besides bearing coconuts. Human beings have depended on the coconut tree for millennia as a source of food.
Coconut water, coconut oil, and coconut meat are some of the products that coconut palm trees offer.
Beyond providing food, there are hundreds of other ways coconut trees benefit human beings. Coconut trees are useful in offering building materials as a more resilient alternative to wood.
They are also used in making floor covering products, medicine, and skincare products.
Some of the most popular coconut palms include;
- East coast tall coconut
- West coast tall coconut
- Macapuno coconut
- King coconut
- Malayan Yellow Dwarf coconut
- Fiji Dwarf coconut
- Maypan coconut
How is the Coconut Palm Tree Used?
Coconut trees, including coconut fruits, are useful to people in many ways.
First, the fibers from the coconut shell are used in making ropes, waterproof joint sealer for boats, compost, sacs, and brushes.
The husk can be used in making charcoal, floor polish, and fuel. They are also used in creating insect repellents and skincare products such as skin exfoliators.
The water from coconuts is rich in vitamins, sugar, fiber, and antioxidants and is consumed regularly in areas where coconut trees grow abundantly. In emergency cases, coconut milk is safe to infuse directly with blood and can be used to restore electrolyte balance in the body.
Coconut oil is used as a skin moisturizer and is also known to soften and reduce wrinkles on the skin.
When palm trees are trimmed, the old fronds are often used as a roofing material to provide shade from the hot tropical sun.
Coconut Tree Vs Palm Tree: Key Differences
It’s hard to find any defining differences between a palm tree and a coconut palm tree. Technically, coconut trees are palms. Both trees have the same leaves and bear fruits.
Differences between the palms and coconut trees are evident in the trunk and leaves. Trunks of palm trees are more scaly and textured. On the other hand, coconut tree trunks barely have any scales and are light in color.
The fruits borne by both trees are different.
The coconut tree produces hard coconut fruits, while palms can produce smaller fruits, for example, dates.
There are multiple ways that you can identify a coconut tree. Some of the standard distinctive features of coconut trees are;
- Wide shaped feather-like leaves that are up to 4 feet wide
- The coconut fruit is covered in a fibrous encasing
- The trunk is slender and textured
- Most coconut trees grow up to 80 ft
- The base of the tree is thick, and growing fronds cap the top
- They have a long lifespan of 60-100 years and can support 3 generations
- They mostly prefer growing in host humid tropical climates
Palm trees other than coconut trees also have distinct features that you can use when identifying them.
- Fronds resemble a fan
- Dwarf palms have a thick trunk
- Single or multiple trunks growing together in a cluster
- Leaves of some short species may have bushlike pinnate fronds growing with no distinct trunk
- Palm trees produce palm oil
- The lifespan of palm trees can reach up to 150 years
Health benefits: Coconut trees have more health benefits compared to palm trees.
- Coconut water helps maintain a healthy electrolyte balance in the body
- Oil from coconut palms helps in keeping the skin elastic and smooth
- Coconut is used in removing lice on the head
- It helps in strengthening the lives
- It manages acid reflux
- Reverses the symptoms of chronic exhaustion
- Increases the rate of nutrient absorption in the body
Are there Male and Female Coconut Trees?
Coconut trees, unlike palm trees in general, produce both male and female flowers. They are monoecious, and while most tall varieties depend on cross-pollination, most dwarf species self-pollinate.
Can A Palm Tree Survive The Cold?
Palm trees, in general, prefer warm tropical climates with enough moisture and humidity. However, some species, such as the Queen palm and the date palm are hardy. You can grow them in places that experience snowfall. Many people also grow palm plants indoors.
Why Don’t Palm Trees in California have Coconuts?
The climate of most of the United States is not ideal for the normal growth of coconut palms. While some can survive in cold temperatures, they need a warm tropical environment to thrive. However, other types can grow in California.
It’s hard to distinguish between palm trees and coconut palms since a coconut palm is a palm tree.
However, palm trees and coconut trees have notable differences worth knowing and helpful in telling a coconut tree from other palm trees.