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St. John USVI Flora: Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera)

st john flora: coconuts

st john flora: coconut palm

The coconut palm is the symbol of the tropics. Their natural habitat is the area at the top of sand beaches where few other species can grow. In this area a layer of fresh water floats above another layer of salt water that seeps through the sand from the sea. The coconut palm roots seek out this fresh water layer. Although the coconut palm also grows well in good soil, it is more prevalent in sandy environments where there is less competition.

 

st john flora: coconut man

In St. John, the coconut is usually enjoyed while still green and slightly immature, when the nut meat is still soft. In this form they are called jelly nuts. After drinking the coconut water, the soft meat or jelly is eaten with a spoon made from the husk of the coconut. Coconut water mixed with gin is a popular drink around carnival time and is said to have aphrodisiac qualities.

Although the coconut palm is found all over the Caribbean, it is not native to the area. Their exact origin is not known for sure, but they probably originated somewhere in the Pacific Basin.

The coconut is one of the largest seeds in the world. It can float and withstand many days at sea. When it finds a beach, the leaves will sprout before the roots emerge. The coconut can move around with surf and tide until it finds an ideal spot on the beach to grow.

The leaves, or fronds, can be used to thatch roofs or to make mats, baskets and hats.