Agricultural period: 1919-1959

Updated: 7 November 2015

The "Agricultural" period covers the time when the dwarf coconut was promoted (in Malaysia) until a research group (in Jamaica) was set up and made the Malayan Dwarf important for lethal yellowing disease resistance, high density planting of disease resistant dwarf varieties also involved the proper use of fertilizers and herbicides.

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Philippines - the "original palm" of a dwarf variety on San Miguel Island in the Philippines known as ‘Tambolilid' was about 30 years old in 1959 (Pancho) Cadang cadang disease was first positively identified from San Migel Island in 1937 (Ocfemia).The coincidence has not been accounted for.

Pancho, 1960; Ocfemia, 1937


Menon, K.P.V. & Pandalai, K.M. (1958) The coconut palm, a monograph. Indian Coconut Committee, Ernakulum.

Rejuvenation of coconut palms - Build a wooden box high on the stem of a selected coconut palm, just below the crown of leaves, fill it with a mixture of coarse river sand and seasoned coir dust and keep moist. When enough roots are produced simply cut the stem below the box, lower the rooted crown to the ground and replant in a prepared position.

Davis, T.A. (1958) Indian Coconut Bulletin 12, 224-228. (see also World Crops, August 1962, pp2-6).


Drought -

Strontium, particularly when in radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons' testing, seemed a likely culprit for otherwise unexplainable coconut diseases.

Verghese, E.J., Shankaranarayanan, M.P. & Menon, K.P.V. (1957) A note on the strontium content of coconut leaves and soils in relation to "leaf" and "root" (wilt) diseases of coconuts in Travancore & Cochin. Indian Cocon. J., 10, 2, 25-31.


Copra - the last efforts of a sunset industry


Lethal yellowing - first use of this name for the "unknown" or "West End" disease in Jamaica. This paper also suggested the disease was a virus transmitted by an insect, a decade after a similar suggestion by Bruner & Boucle in Cuba.

Nutman, F.J. & Roberts, F.M. (1955) Lethal yellowing: the "unknown" disease of coconut palms in Jamaica. Emp. J. Exptl. Agric. 23, 257-267.

Brazil - A coconut plantation in Brazil represents a mixture of varieties poorly defined, with many intermediate types. Between them, the workers distinguish the following types in practise:

  1. Tall coconut - fruit reaches up to more than 40cm in length, with the corresponding width. It has a thick mesocarp. However its albumen does not follow the nut size. It is not very common to find this in plantations.

  2. True coconut or native coconut - stalk of leaves, floral peduncle and fruits externally green. Mesocarp in fruit internally, in cut, red. Good quality, thick albumen.

  3. Blood red coconut - petioles of leaves, floral peduncle and fruits externally red. Reddish flowers. Mesocarp internally blood red. Good variety but relatively rare.

  4. Red coconut - peduncles, flowers and fruits externally red. Reddish leaf stalks. Good quality, average size nuts and large [amount of] albumen.

  5. Mestizo coconut - inflorescence externally reddish chestnut colour. Stalks of leaves green or yellowish. Good precocious variety, average size fruit, voluminous nuts, with thick albumen.

  6. White coconut or coconut of lineage (king?) - inflorescence, fruits, leaf peduncles are green. It has various sub-varieties, of big or small nuts and of variable shape. Types of large fruits have thick albumen and are rich in oil.

History of dwarf coconut in Brazil

Miguel Calmon, when Minister of Agriculture imported from the Indies in 1925, hundreds of seedlings of dwarf coconut and distributed in the states of the north. Years passed. Not the precociousness nor the production called it to attention. Dwarf coconut allowed numerous fruits to form. They fell down, those which reached maturity were few and of insignificant size. We found the dwarf coconut strongly infested by insects and without a single fruit. We controlled the pests and strongly fertilized with ashes and city garbage. The coconuts were recovered, and produced near about 400 nuts of regular size, reaching to maturity. We published photographs, by press and indicated the distribution of seed and seedlings.

Many seedlings of this tree were distributed to various states of Brazil. Coconut of this origin already have second, third, fourth and fifth generations.

In the first import, in 1925 came only a single variety of coconut, white variety, of stalks, closed inflorescences and fruits green. In 1939/40 Dr. Paulo Burle imported from Thailand, seeds of precocious coconut of different varieties. We visited his plantation and admired especially by productivity and beauty:

Ivory yellow coconut - it starts flowering after two years and produces 30 to 40 fruits in single bunch and 12 bunches per year. We observed a lot of beautiful fruits: yellow orange. The coconut needs to have more fruit than leaves.

Red coconut - of reddish orange, equally productive highly ornamental but with the visual colouring more pronounced.

Mestizo coconut - of fruits slightly chestnut in colour, of good production.

White coconut - of green fruit, similar to the variety imported by Miguel Calmon, already planted in the North.

Based on translation by Evandro Almeida of report by L.A. Siqueira published in the 1972 issue of the FAO Coconut Breeders' Consultative Committee report.

Bondar, G. (1955) A cultura do coqueiro no Brasil. Tipografia Naval, Salvador, Bahia, Brasil.


Pieris, W.V.D. (1954) The case for and against a regional (Pacific) coconut research institute. SPC Restricted.


One of the largest processors of coconut oil in the world - the Proctor & Gamble, Sacramento plant uses state-of-the-art chemical processing and controls technology . . . began operation in 1953 and is currently one of the largest processors of coconut oil in the world. Oleochemical derivatives of coconut oil are produced there and used in many familiar soaps and detergents.

Procter & Gamble


Plant growth factors in coconut water - "The addition of coconut milk to the nutrient medium greatly accelerates the growth of normal sunflower callus . . . These results confirmed past reports that coconut milk contains an important growth promoting principle, a material different from other recognized plant growth factors". [But it was water from the unripe coconut. "Coconut milk" is an emulsion produced during oil extraction from the ripe or dried kernel]

Henderson et al 1952. The growth of normal sunflower stem callus in vitro by the use of supplementary growth factors, including coconut milk. Am. J. Bot. 39:467–73

Fossils - The spore and pollen flora of the Cocos-bearing beds, Mangonui, North Auckland.

Couper, R.A Trans. Roy. Soc. New Zealand 79, 340-348.


Pseudotheraptus - A coconut pest, controlled by an ant that nests in other trees and which itself is disturbed by a ground nesting ant, when both ants visit the palm. Forty years later, Professor Way was advisor to a project in Tanzania where this bug, P. wayi, is a much more serious threat than the more obvious rhinoceros beetle.

Way, M.J. (1951) An insect pest of coconuts and its relationship to certain ant species. Nature 168, 302.

The Atoll - 'And everywhere there are coconut palms. This amazing tree is the life blood of the atoll. It makes wood furniture. Its plaited leaves make fine baskets or hats or carpeting or partitions. A silky lace-like growth about the crown yields good mats. The heart of the palm makes the world's best salad, the husk is perfect insulating material, and the hard shell of the nut makes good charcoal.

As if this were not enough, the liquid within the nut is a delicious substitute for drinking water and is moreover so pure that it can be used medically as a completely sterile saline solution. With safety it can be injected even into the blood stream, for in the hard shell there is always a soft eye through the needle can be passed.

As for the meat itself, its uses are manifold. Few nuts are allowed to ripen into the hard, unpalatable stuff sold in American markets. If they do reach that age, when the milk is bitter and useless, they are made into copra for their oil, which is manufactured into soap and margarine. Most nuts are picked young, when the meat is so soft that it can be eaten with a spoon. There are six stages in the ripening of a coconut, each with its own name, each with its peculiar cooking possibilities.

The best dish is this: Take a fish caught that afternoon on the reef and cut it into strips, raw. Soak them overnight in lime juice and sea water. Pick some young coconuts and add their milk to the fish. Stand the pot in the sun for five hours. Grate up the coconut meat, add two onions and mix it with the fish. The result is a kind of bitter-sweet dish which tastes completely different from any other food. There is no smell of fish, no taste of sea water, no bite of lime. It is a delicious feast.'

Michener JA (1951) Return to Paradise, page12. [submitted by Richard Illingworth]


Treen - carved and decorated coconuts often mounted with precious metals and jewels as religious or ceremonial receptacles

Pinto, E.H. (1950) Nut Treen, a series of three articles on Treen made from Coconuts and Coquilla Nuts. Apollo, Volume LI, Number 299, 23-25; 54-56; 107-109.

Bikini Atoll - Taylor said that Chamisso "considered the climax on low islands to be Coconut and Pandanus, the latter of greatest economic importance to the inhabitants" and thought it " curious that nothing is said about coconuts on the four northern atolls . . . which suggests that they were not important here at the time".

Note: Chamisso was writing before coconut oil became a commrcial commodity - hence his comment that pandanus was of the greatest economic importance. Taylor's report was written after the atomic bomb testing and before hydrogen bomb testing. This report has been used in evidence for coconuts not establishing naturally. "Trees that appeared on really barren islets may have been accidentally cast ashore, and these solitary individuals were always depauperate. Nuts in presumably fertile condition were not rare on the shore, but neither were they common., and they were not observed to germinate and establish themselves in the marginal vegetation." 

Taylor, W.R. (1950) Plants of Bikini and other northern Marshall Islands. i-xv 1-227 illus. Ann Arbor, U. Mich. Press.

Chamisso, A. von (1826-35) A voyage around the world with the Romanzov exploring expedition in the years 1815-1818 in the Brig Rurick, Captain Otto von Kotzebue. (translated by H.Kratz [1986]. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press).

See also Wallis 1767; Butler 1794; Kotzebue 1825.


Cocopeat - This paper pre-dated by half a century the commercial use of coir dust as a renewable resource to save wetlands.

Hume, E.P. (1949) Coir dust or cocopeat - a by-product of the coconut. Economic Botany 3, 42-45.


Tissue culture - The value of water from the immature coconut as a growth promoter in in vitro tissue culture is recognised. The use of the term "milk" should be reserved for the oil in water emulsion that is obtained from processing the ripe nut.

Caplins, S.M. & Steward, F.C. (1948) Effects of coconut milk on the growth of explants from carrot root. Science 655-657.

Tide turns against coconut - In 1948, SRI began strategic scientific and business consulting activity with work for the petroleum company, Chevron. [SRI] market investigation confirmed the potential of dodecyl benzene, a petrochemical substitute for the tallow and coconut oil then used in making soap, and the basis for the first successful household detergent, Proctor and Gamble's Tide.



Insects - the high number of insect species found on coconut palm in southeast Asian - western Pacific region lead many people to consider that coconuts had originated in that region.

Lepesme, P. (1947) Les insectes des palmiers. Paris, Lechevalier.

Coconut Conference - because of the present world shortage of vegetable oils and fats

Nature 390, 555 (11 Dec 1997) News and Views" 50 YEARS AGO"


Hurricanes - As a result of Taylor's committee's a hurricane insurance fund was started in Jamaica and farmers benefited with free replanting material and a cash gratuity after the 1951 hurricane. A long period without hurricanes allowed some of the insurance funds to be used to set up the Research Department, with one of the terms of reference to breed for hurricane tolerance. The F1 hybrid Maypan, released in 1974, was reported to be the most successful variety in that respect after the 1988 hurricane (Johnston et al, 1994).

Taylor, R.W. (1946) Interim report of the committee appointed to advise on insurance to meet the damage from hurricanes. The Government Printer, Jamaica.

Comments on Cook's theory as to the American origin and prehistoric Polynesian distribution of certain economic plants
Merrill, E.H.D. (1945) On the significance of certain oriental plant names in relation to introduced species. Chronica Botanica 10, 193-198. and 295-315.


Peru - Coconuts said to occur in N. coast of Peru (see Smit, 1965, 1968, 1970)

Weberbauer, A. (1945) El mundo vegetal de los Andes Peruanos. Lima p622.


Plastic Protective Plating - The use of Coconut Matting to reinforce 2½ in timber backed non-magnetic Plastic Protective Plating against attack by 20 mm. H.E. shells.

Waters, B., 1944

American coconuts - Seeking the origins of coconuts found on the Pacific coast of America in the 16th century, Bruman suggested, on the basis of Edmonson's experiment, that coconuts would take about 7 months to float on the Pacific Equatorial Counter current from Palmyra Atoll. However the mean eastward speed of this current between Palmyra and Central America is about 0.25 m/s, equivalent to 400 days. The question of the origin of coconuts in America remains open, but natural dissemination over shorter distances elsewhere in the Pacific and Indian Oceans is a reasonable assumption. Only the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea were inaccessible to natural dissemination.

Bruman, H.J. 1944. Some observations on the early history of the coconut in the New World. Acta americana 2: 220-243.


Cuba - The disease known as “Cuban Coconut Heart Rot” was described by Bruner and Boucle in the early 1940s when they said “In Cuba, coconut palms have suffered an epidemic disease for more than half a century . . .” and that it had “eradicated the former extensive commercial plantations in almost the entire island. . .” They stated categorically that ". . .'Cuban Coconut Heart Rot' does not refer to Bud Rot caused by the fungus Phytophthora palmivora . . .” and they considered that “. . . its existence in several other countries has been questioned, so nowadays it is only in the west of the island of Jamaica that we can feel certain from published data that the disease there is similar to that of our country”. But there is also data in the Bruner and Boucle article that clearly show the disease was seriously epidemic there at least 66 years earlier than the epidemic in Jamaica: “From Baracoa, in 1905, not less than 17,113,572 coconuts were exported; in 1910 that quantity had decreased to 6,177,170; and in 1941 they could only send 350 thousand coconuts from there, which represented little more than 2% of those exported 36 years earlier . . .” In fact, the loss in production in the 5 year period between 1905 and 1910 is a staggering 64%. Bruner and Boucle also suggested the disease might be caused by a virus transmitted by an insect vector - a decade before the idea became the basis for an R&D programme in Jamaica. A copy of the original document and a translation can be found at the CICLY: Cuba web page.

Bruner, S.C. & Boucle, L. (1943) La enfermedad conocida por "pudricion de cogello del cocotero en Cuba". Rev. Agriculture. 26, 132-141.

JFK might never have been president - during World War II in the South Pacific, the-then 26-year-old Lieutenant John F Kennedy was commanding a patrol-torpedo boat. On a night patrol off Kolombangara Island in the Solomons, the PT-109 was cut in two by a Japanese destroyer and the crew of 14 men pitched into the water. Two of the crew died; Kennedy helped the 11 other survivors reach a small island. For the next three nights he swam from island to island at night trying to find help. On the fourth night, on Nara Island he finally contacted a group of islanders. He picked up a coconut from the sand and with a jackknife, scratched a message on it: "NAURO ISL COMMANDER ... NATIVE KNOWS POSIT ... HE CAN PILOT ... 11 ALIVE NEED SMALL BOAT ... KENNEDY." Kennedy gave the shell to the islanders and said "Rendova" - the island on which the PT base was located. They paddled off with the shell in a canoe and a day later Kennedy and his crew were rescued. Kennedy held on to the coconut shell and later had it mounted as a memento; he kept it on his desk in the Senate then in the Oval Office in 1960. It is now on display at the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. 


USA: the loss of the far eastern supply of fats and oils - Cocoanut oil for soap making, of which an important by-product is glycerine, which in turn is used in the manufacture of nitroglycerine, formerly came from the Philippines. Supplies of palm oil and palm kernel oil, which were likewise used by the soap industry, are also cut off. If domestic oils are substituted in the production of glycerine, larger quantities will be necessary than if the imported oils were used, since domestic oils yield only from 10 to 11 per cent glycerine, while the imported oil yielded 14 per cent.
Monthly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Volume XXVII, Atlanta, Georgia, July 31, 1942 Number 7 Page 1.

East Africa - Tidbury enumerates in 1942 the Mnazi wa Kiswahili, the Mnazi wa Pemba, the Mnazi wa Kitamli and the Mnazi wa Kifunzi. He explains that the first two varieties are used for copra making, cooking, thatching, firewood, brooms etc. while the third one only for drinking. One of his staff told him that the last one occurs in Pemba having very small nuts which are very sweet.

Krain, et al 1992

Cocos × campos-portoana Bondar, Publ. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. Ser. 22: 460 (1942) is a synonym for Syagrus × campos-portoana (Bondar) Glassman, Rhodora 65: 260 (1963). Homotypic synonyms are Arecastrum × campos-portoanum (Bondar) A.D.Hawkes, Arq. Bot. Estado São Paulo, n.s., f.m., 2: 175 (1952) and Syagrus × campos-portoana (Bondar) Glassman, Rhodora 65: 260 (1963).

Cocos × mataforme Bondar, Publ. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. Ser. 22: 459 (1942) is a synonym for Syagrus × mataforme (Bondar) A.D.Hawkes, Arq. Bot. Estado São Paulo, n.s., f.m., 2: 178 (1952). An homotypic synonym is Syagrus × mataforme (Bondar) A.D.Hawkes, Arq. Bot. Estado São Paulo, n.s., f.m., 2: 178 (1952).

Cocos × tostana Bondar, Publ. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. Ser. 22: 458 (1942) is a synonym for Syagrus × tostana (Bondar) Glassman, Rhodora 65: 261 (1963). Homotypic synonyms are Arikuryroba × tostana (Bondar) A.D.Hawkes, Arq. Bot. Estado São Paulo, n.s., f.m., 2: 175 (1952) and Syagrus × tostana (Bondar) Glassman, Rhodora 65: 261 (1963).

Cocos vagans Bondar, Publ. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. Ser. 22: 457 (1942) is a synonym for Syagrus vagans (Bondar) A.D.Hawkes, Arq. Bot. Estado São Paulo, n.s., f.m., 2: 178 (1952). An homotypic synonym is Syagrus vagans (Bondar) A.D.Hawkes, Arq. Bot. Estado São Paulo, n.s., f.m., 2: 178 (1952).


Coconut oil as a fuel for diesel engines.

Child, R. (1941) J. Coconut Ind.(Ceylon), 5, 1, 7-8.

World Wars I & II - The importance of the coconut at the time of the First World War was clearly demonstrated when the German territories in Africa and the Pacific with their extensive plantations, were taken as reparation. As a result, Japan administered the Caroline, Marianna and Marshall islands. To these they added, in 1942, other important coconut growing countries. Indonesia and the Philippines together accounted for more than fifty percent of the world supply of copra; Indo-China, Malaya, Borneo, New Guinea, the Solomons and the Gilbert Islands for a further twenty-five percent. Deprived of access to so much coconut oil, European interest centered on the African oil palm, Elaeis guineensis Jacq., whilst in the USA other oil crops were developed. It is no coincidence that a germplasm bank for soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr., was established by the USDA in the 1940's.

Harries, H.C. (2002) Blown out of the water; sneak attack on Pearl Harbor blasts coconut research. Pritchardia 2, 1-3.

Hawaii - Viability of coconut after floating in sea. This experiment was carried out in Pearl Harbour and published in the year the naval base was attacked.

Edmondson, C.H (1941) Occasional Papers B.P. Bishop Museum, Hawaii 16:293-304.

Raw material and war material - There are five most important modern explosives that are being used as igniters, propellants and fillers in the differentiates of ammunition, bombs and submarine mines. They are the black gunpowder which is becoming obsolete due to the conspicuous black smoke it gives, picric acid and nitrocellulose used as propellants, nitro-glycerine (dynamite) used in bombs and blasting sticks, and trinitrotoluene (TNT) used as filler in big bombs and submarine mines. Of these five, two of them, picric acid and nitroglycerine, can depend on coconut as a source of material. So, out of the coconut, which during peace feeds, clothes and shelters directly one-third of the population of the Philippines, we can fall on it as a veritable and inexhaustible source of raw materials necessary in the manufacture of important and vital munitions in time of hostilities.

Alcazar, E.A. (1941) Coconut as a potential war material. Coconut J. (Philippines) 1: 8-9

Taxonomy - Bondar considered all described species in the genus Syagrus as being in the genus Cocos with the coconut. There is a plausible argument that he was correct, but no taxonomist has yet taken on this problem.

Bondar, G. 1941. Palmeiras do Genero Cocos e Descricao de duas Especies Novas. Bol. No. 9, Instituto Central de Fomento Economico da Bahia. 53 pp.

Cocos getuliana Bondar, Bol. Inst. Centr. Fomento Econ. Bahia 9: 35 (1941) is a synonym for Syagrus macrocarpa Barb.Rodr., Prot.-App. Enum. Palm. Nov.: 46 (1879). Homotypic synonyms are Barbosa getuliana (Bondar) A.D.Hawkes, Arq. Bot. Estado São Paulo, n.s., f.m., 2: 177 (1952) and Syagrus getuliana (Bondar) Glassman, Rhodora 65: 260 (1963).

Cocos ruschiana Bondar, Bol. Inst. Centr. Fomento Econ. Bahia 9: 45 (1941) is a synonym for Syagrus ruschiana (Bondar) Glassman, Rhodora 65: 261 (1963). Homotypic synonyms are Arikuryroba ruschiana (Bondar) Toledo, Arq. Bot. Estado São Paulo, n.s., f.m., 2: 6 (1944) and Syagrus ruschiana (Bondar) Glassman, Rhodora 65: 261 (1963).


Uganda - Coconut introduced into Uganda in 1901 said to fruit fairly well.

Thomas, A.S. (1940) Fruits and vegetables. Appendix Tothill, J.D. Agriculture in Uganda. OUP. p490.

Octopus planting - "There are only 2 varieties native to these islands, both tall trees: Niu hiwa, with nut dark green when mature and shell black (hiwa) used ceremoniously, medicinally and for cooking; Niu lelo, with nut reddish and shell yellow (lelo) used for all secular purposes, but not ceremoniously or medicinally. Niu-ola-hiki is the mythical name of the spirit who was man, god, eel and coconut in different forms (kinolau). The story of the origin of the tree and its nuts, whose appearance is suggestive of an eels head with eyes and mouth, told in Hilo, Hawaii, is similar to that told in Tahiti about the origin of the tree from the buried head of a decapitated monster eel. In planting a coconut the Hawaiians took a nut that was already sprouting, dug a hole a little deeper than necessary to cover the nut, placed an octopus (he'e) in the bottom of the hole, set the nut on top of the octopus, covered it with earth. The octopus was believed to give the root a spread and grip like its own and to produce nuts bulbous like its head or body".

Handy, E.S.C. 1940. The Hawaiian planter. Volume I. His plants, methods and areas of cultivation. Bishop Mus. Bull. 161: iii + 227 p.


The milk in the coconut - “In the last analysis, therefore, consumer buying power is the milk in the coconut of all business”. Franklin D. Roosevelt in an address before the American Retail Federation, Washington, D.C.,

Artificial leather - A scheme for the manufacture in Ceylon of artificial leather from green immature coconuts naturally falling from the tree.

Menon, S.R.K. (1939) Cyclostyled.

Brazil - Fernandes e Silva (1939) described thee varieties of dwarf as follows:

Ivory yellow - petiole yellow and greenish yellow, generally covered with a velvet skin (?) petals (?) more clear than other types; yellow spadix. Branches and inflorescence axis are yellow. Segments of perianth of male and female flowers are yellow. Yellow fruits.

Green - green petioles, leaf petioles soft green; petals dark green. Spadix green. The main axis of inflorescence greenish-red. Before drying the fruit is green.

Red - petiole red, more dark than of ivory yellow type. Spadix reddish. Fruit greenish red. In each type the petiole colour corresponds to the fruits. The chromatic differences in each type are clearly seen in the young leaves of the germinated nut.

In the [Aracaju] Experiment we have three varieties that came from Araruama, Brazil which according to its owner, were imported from Singapore. Actually the dwarf coconut has been cultivated in [Sergipe] State aiming at improvement, hybridization; and also by smallholders who harvest green coconut for water consumption. It is strongly infested by pests: such as Rhina, Homalinothus that can cause a precocious death.

Based on translation by Evandro Almeida of a report by L.A. Siqueira published in the 1972 issue of the FAO Coconut Breeders' Consultative Committee report.

Fernandes e Silva, R. (1939) O coqueiro anao. Editado pelo Ministereo da Agricultura, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.


The original home of the coconut

Mayuranathan, P.V. (1938) The original home of the coconut. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 40, 174-182 and a correction. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 40, 776.

Witu Island - During a recent visit to Witu Islands, opportunity was taken of investigating possible reasons why the New Guinea Company so widely used coco-nuts from this source . . . . The question is what special attributes prompted the company to use these seed nuts for extensive plantings. Geologically the Witu group is of very recent origin and it is not many generations since the first seed nuts were brought here [sic]. The oldest palms there are not so high nor so old looking as palms seen in other parts of the Territory. Nevertheless, the palms are quite old, having been forced upwards by the competition of the short surrounding bush [sic]. The islands previously supported a much larger population, but a great proportion was wiped out by an epidemic disease which occurred less than 40 years ago, and at present only a few hundred natives are left [Dwyer presumably refers to a large human population, a human infectious disease and to native people, but the sentence could just as easily refer to a coconut population, a coconut disease and to native coconuts]. Previously extensive plantings of coco-nut groves were made by these old inhabitants, and these still remain and appear exceptionally healthy. The soil, being new, is rather shallow but chemically rich and very friable.

Dwyer, R.E.P. (1938) Coconut improvement by seed selection and plant breeding. N.G. Agric. Gaz. 4 24-102.


Cadang-cadang in the Philippines - Cadang cadang disease was first positively identified from San Migel Island in the Philippines (Ocfemia). The "original palm" of a dwarf variety on San Miguel Island known as ‘Tambolilid' was about 30 years old in 1960 (Pancho). The coincidence has not been accounted for.

Ocfemia, G.O. (1937) The probable nature of cadang-cadang disease of coconut. Phil. Ag. 26, 338-340.

Pancho, J.V. (1960) The Tambulilid. Cocon. Bull. 13, 403-404.

The various words used to designate the coconut - in India and Malaysia are very numerous, but fall into several distinct categories of apparently unrelated names. It is entirely reasonable to suppose that the most widely dispersed one, the niue-nia-niu-niog series, is the oldest. In various forms this extends from Madagascar to parts of India, through Malaysia and the Philippines, Micronesia, and Melanesia, to the extreme eastern limits of Polynesia, Hawaii and the Marquesas Islands . . . the following list is impressive; nyiur, nyor, niyu, nia (Malay Peninsula); nuir, niue (Sumatra); njijor, njijœr, njor, ijor, enhor (Java); niel (Ceram); njœ (Bali), and numerous other variants used in various parts of the Malay Archipelago such as njœr, nijœ, nijœr, nijol, nikwel, nimel, nimelo, nio, niœ, niœra, niœi, niwe, niwel, niwer, njejong, njejor, nhir, nihiwe, njœh, njor, noa, nœra, nœwolo, noö, noör, noöra, noro, œ, œr, ohi, onjœ, etc. Going farther afield we find wau-niu and voa-niu in Madagascar (the name probably introduced with the plant itself by invading Indonesian peoples). In India, narel, nariyal, nariel, narikel, nariyaland, narikela, and numerous other forms apparently derived from the Sanskritic narjil. In New Guinea nœ ajo is recorded, in the New Hebrides maru, and in New Caledonia nu. In the Philippines the coconut is universally known from north to south as niog. And in various parts of Polynesia we find again the constant occurrence of this same root in such names as niu (Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, Yap, Makatea), nia (Tahiti), nu (Truk, Rarotonga), ni (Ponape), nius (Palau), niyog (Guam), indicating a reasonably universal use of slight variants of one name all over Micronesia and Polynesia . . . There are several other series of coconut names that apparently have nothing to do with the niue-nia-niu-niog series . . . They are the halambir-kelambir series with such variants as karambil, krambel, krambil, karambie, ketjambil in the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, and neighboring small islands. The kalapa series with such variants as klapa, kelapa, kelapo, is largely used in Java . . . In all these, other than the niue-nia-niu-niog series, the use of the names is invariably restricted to limited geographic areas, rather clearly indicating that these names became current later than the niu series which extends from Madagascar to India through Malaysia and the Philippines to the eastern limits of Polynesia . . . the njijœr series is the oldest, spread by early Indonesian peoples . . . the halambir-kelambir series is next, having come into use much later than the njijœr series, and . . . the kalapa series is still younger . . .
Extract from Merill, E.H.D. (1937) On the significance of certain oriental plant names in relation to introduced species. Proc. Am. Philosophical Soc. 78: 112-146.


Russian coconuts - ?

Pataraya, S.I. (1936) Aspidiotus destructor in the regions of the Soviet Subtropics. Soviet Subtrop. 12, 26-70. English abstracts.


Pacific pests - Amblypelta (Lever), spike moth (Paine) and Aspidiotus (Taylor & Paine)

Lever, R.J.A.W. (1935) The green coconut bug, Amblypelta cocophaga. BSIP Gazette 3, 6-7; 4, 9-10.
Paine, R.W. (1935) The control of the coconut spike moth (
Tirathaba rufivena) in Fiji. Dept. Ag. Fiji Bull 18.
Taylor, T.H.C. & Paine, R.W. (1935) The campaign against
Aspidiotus destructor in Fiji. Bull. Ent. Res. 26, 1-102.

Top hats - “A boy who throws coconuts at top hats is fundamentally sound in his views”

P.G. Wodehouse; Blandings Castle and Elsewhere.


Copra in decline

Largest coconut plantation in continental America - "The coconut, 'plantation' or 'cocal' on this island [Key Biscayne] is considered the largest in the continental America. Last year the crop was sufficiently plentiful to permit Hugh Matheson to donate 15,000 nuts for the relief of the unemployed of Miami. These were distributed, together with other foodstuffs,  from the city curb market. They were hulled on the plantation by other unemployed labor. There are innumerable dwarf coconut palms on the island, brought into this country by an expedition fitted out and financed by the Commodore, under goverment supervision. The first lot consisted of about 600 nuts, which were for a three-year period, sprouted and grown in a screened shed. There is a red variety, whose fruit is of a beautiful copper colour. A yellow type has fruit which is almost as bright as canary yellow. A green type is smaller than the others, and rounder than the average coconut of commerce."
The Miami News,1934

Self establishment - The emergence of Anak Krakatau in August 1930 convinced Hill that “These observations afford satisfactory evidence that ocean-borne nuts can germinate when washed ashore on an uninhabited island and become established without the intervention of human agency, and the evidence which has been brought forward may be considered to strengthen the view that the Polynesian or East Indian Islands are the original home of the coconut palm” 

Hill, A.W. & van Leeuwen, W.D. (1933) Germinating coconuts on a new volcanic island, Krakatoa. Nature 132, 674.

In denial - “For more than thirty years (Werth 1901 ) I have been opposed to this idea, and deny that the coconut palm is a plant growing wild on tropical coasts and which is self-sown after dispersal with the help of ocean currents. This view I have repeated and further demonstrated eight years later in a special article (Werth 1909) and for the third time I have treated the question from the same angle in 1915 (Werth 1915). In Tropical East Africa I have only come across the coconut palm under human cultivation; never have I seen it on uninhabited stretches of coast or inland, and nowhere is there to be found an example of its self establishment on sea-shores or wider coast lands.

Werth, E. (1933) Verbreitung, Urheimat und Kultur der Kokspalme. Ber. Deutsch. Bot. Ges. 51, 301-314. (Translated version)


Fruit component analysis was carried out on an imported and a local variety in Malaya

Smith, A.C. (1932) San Blas coconuts in Malaya. Malay, Ag. J. 20, 583-585.

Transpiration - a mature coconut palm transpires about 200 litres per day according to Tulner (1932) cited by Reyne (1948) quoted by Ohler (1999).


Coconut breeding

Dupertuis, C.B.T. (1931) La pollinisation artificielle du cocotier. L'agriculture pratique du pays chauds 8, 85-90.

Cadang-cadang - was first recorded in 1931, though what seems to have been a similar disease was reported in 1914 (Kent). It first appeared in Nabua, Camarines Sur, as early as 1914 (Fortich) and in Calolban, Catanduanes, in 1919 (Celino).

Kent, G.C. (1953) Cadang-cadang of coconut. Phil. Agric. 37, 228-240.
Fortich, M.G. (1955) Some aspects of the coconut oil industry in the Philippines. Thesis, MSBA, Far Eastern University.
Celino, M.S. (1958) The search for the insect vector of cadang-cadang. Coco News 3, 2.


Panama - "Edible husk coconuts from Ceylon sent to the Canal Zone for planting"

Fairchild, D. (1930) Exploring for Plants. MacMillan NY

Germany - imported 148,381 tons of copra, the first after World War I reparation settlements [on the eve of WWI Germany dominated 80-90% of the European copra-oil industry].


The original home and mode of dispersal of the coconut - “The fact remains, however, that coconuts are the common strand palms on almost every tropical island and that they were found well-established when many of these uninhabited islands were discovered”

Hill, A.W. (1929) The original home and mode of dispersal of the coconut. Nature 124, 133-134; 151-153).

Dr Hunger, a Dutch scientist, was fifteen years in the tropics it at a time when (in his words) the coconut-palm changed from being a valued culture-plant of the native and ascended rather suddenly to a highly important culture-plant of the Europeans. From about 1908, he wrote popular and scientific articles on coconut and his final study-trip, in 1921, led him through the whole East Indian archipelago (Indonesia), and gave him ample opportunity to see the results of the spread of coconut culture. Like many other Europeans before and since, he continued to publish after his return to home, at least until 1928. These publications included a handbook on the knowledge of the coconut in the Dutch East Indies which had a first edition in 1916 and a second edition in 1920. This book, translated into German, is a reworking of the second edition, brought up to date in 1928 because of the increasing interest in coconut culture in that decade.

Hunger, F.W.T (1929) Kokospalme: Monographien zur Landwirtschaff warmer Länder.

Ceylon - the Coconut Research Scheme was established in 1929. The depressed copra market of the 1930's impeded research, and when a variety survey was begun in 1939, it had to be terminated after a few months because of the Second World War

Harries, 1978


Therapeutic value of coconut oil - the development of antibiotics may have overshadowed the antimicrobial activity of coconut oil - which was subsequently "rediscovered" as an adjunct to AIDs treatment seventy years later.

Jesus, Z. de. (1928) The germicidal properties of the mixture of kerosene and coconut oil. Phil. Agric. 16, 521-534.


During this period much coconut research and development was undertaken by Dutch nationals in East Indies and elsewhere. Written in Dutch, most of the information is inaccessible to other nationalities.

Cocos nehrlingiana Abbott ex Nehrl., Amer. Eagle, 17 Feb.: (1927) is a synonym for Butia capitata (Mart.) Becc., Agric. Colon. 10: 504 (1916). Homotypic synonyms are Butia capitata var. nehrlingiana (Abbott ex Nehrl.) L.H.Bailey, Gentes Herb. 4: 33 (1936) and Butia nehrlingiana (Abbott ex Nehrl.) Abbott ex Nehrl., Amer. Eagle 24(17): 1 (5 Sept. 1929).


The first controlled hybridisation (between Malayan Dwarf and Niu Leka) was made in Fiji

Marechal, H. (1928) Observations and preliminary experiments on the coconut with a view to developing improved seednuts for Fiji. Agric. J. Fiji 1, 16-45.

Mercantile Period: 1840-1925