Many of the mysteries surrounding the coconut palm have still to be solved. One of these mysteries concerns its name. The term cocos came from Portuguese, but in the Sallier papyrus it is revealed that a species of coconut palm existed in Egypt in the XIV century B. C. The name of the fruit, written phonetically, is kuku which means “bark” (since the coconut seed is wrapped in a thick lignified layer). This Coptic word gave rise to the Greek χοχχοσ (coccos) “berry”. The Sanskrit name for the coconut is nari-kera, “succulent fruit”. The Malayan name is nior. The widely divergent names might indicate the regions in which the coconut palm arrived with the natural contribution of the oceans (CHIOVENDA, 1921).
More than 20 billion coconuts are opened every year. Very rarely a pearl is found inside. It is a perfect sphere, about 1cm in diameter, a brilliant creamy white colour, with a flecked surface. The origin of this extraordinary pearl is another mystery. Some maintain that they form, for unknown reasons, only in coconuts which do not have the typical three germination pores. Oriental rulers value these pearls so highly that almost all examples found are today in the Far East. Few Westerners have seen this tropical jewel, since even the most important museums rarely succeed in procuring one (MILNE and MILNE, 1967).
Coconut palms are subject to numerous fungal diseases, bacterial infections, and the most serious virus-like disease, cadang-cadang. Even today little is known about many of these diseases.
It is thought that the purpose of coconut milk is to nourish the immature embryo. The milk has in fact proved to be remarkably valuable in the culture of embryos of other species and in tissue growth in many plants. It is first sterilised in an autoclave and then filtered to remove most of the proteins. The nature of the growth elements in the liquid obtained are not fully known, although we do know that the aminoacids, sugars, alcohol and cytoquinine it contains are important nutritional substances (FOGG, 1977;STREET, 1980).
According to DARWIN (1862), “The most likely hypothesis is that the various species were produced in a single area and they subsequently migrated”. Since the phases of diffusion, the migratory paths, the age and place of origin of the coconut palm cannot be deduced with certainty from its present distribution, its native land is a controversial matter and has been for more than 250 years! Even today, on the threshold of the 3rd millennium, the genetic centre of origin of the palm remains a much debated mystery and, essentially, is unknown. We do not know where this plant originated mainly due to bio-ecological factors and to the influence of man.
BIO-ECOLOGICAL FACTORS – The plant flourishes best on coastlines. It produces floating fruits, extremely resistant to the waves, which are diffused by currents up to 4 500 km from their place of origin. They remain vital in the sea for considerably long periods – around 8 months since the water temperature is low, while on land they germinate after about 90 days –, conserving their germinative capacity.
HUMAN INFLUENCE – It is difficult to determine how humans have contributed to this diffusion. The plant provides sustenance for a number of peoples in the tropics, who have diffused it over vast areas. In 1976, however, PICKERSGILL pointed out that it is still not clear how the coconuts could have already crossed 6 000 miles (around 11,000 km) of Pacific Ocean to reach the western …