KNOW YOUR COCONUT PALM

S.ESWARA REDDY

The Plant Coconut, Coconus nucifera is a monocotyledon belonging to the order Palmae. It is the sole species of the genus Cocos. (Cocos = monkey

face, nucifera = nut bearing) Trees are generally un branched, erect, cylindrical, pillar-like stem reaching up to 25-30 m in height. Trunks may reach a diameter of 50 cm. The trunks are ringed with scars where old leaves have fallen. The top of the trunk is crowned with a rosette of leaves and a branched inflorescence enclosed in a sheath collectively known as the spadix. The stem is usually un branched, light grey, smooth and erect or slightly curved Stem rises from a swollen base, the bole. Growth of stem originates from one terminal bud in the center at the top of the stem. The first years after germination, only very short internodes are developed from which sprout many adventitious roots. Only when the full width of the stem has been reached (after 4 years for talls and 2-3 years for dwarfs) elongation of the stem begins, and the stem emerges from the ground. As the stem has no outer cambium it does not grow laterally and wounds in the stem will always remain visible as they will not be covered by new growth. Steps cut into the stem for climbing will remain for as long as the palm lives. Under normal conditions, the stem diameter remains the same. Under un favorable conditions the diameter of the stem will decrease. The branching of stem results from slight damage of the growing point, or from severe stress . The stem consists of a central cylinder surrounded by a narrow

band of tissue, the cortex, called 'bark', about 1 cm thick, somewhat thicker at the base of the stem. The central cylinder consists of a parenchymatic tissue enclosing vascular and fibrous bundles. The vascular bundles at the centre are more widely spaced than at the periphery. The surface of the cortex shows a pattern of triangular-shaped leaf scars, marking the stem where former leaves have been attached. Between the leaf scars there are unscarred areas, the internodes. The distance between the leaf scars shows the growth rate of the palm. For instance, if a coconut palm produces about 14 leaves per year, the total distance between 14 leaf scars represents 1 year of stem growth. dr_esreddy@yahoo.co.in 11th July 2011

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