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Coconut & Palm Trees [6 Key Differences With Similarities]

The Coconut tree belongs to the Palm family (Arecaceae), bearing fibrous dry fruit called drupe. 

Plants from the same family share a similar appearance, but not all Palms produce Coconut-like fruit. 

While most people confuse Palm trees with Coconut trees, the latter has broad leaves with skinny diagonal blades, unlike other Palms with fan-shaped leaves. 

Besides the fruit, the Coconut tree’s physical attribute sets it apart from its cousin Palms. Let’s understand!

Is the Coconut & Palm Tree the Same Thing?

The ‘Palm tree’ is a broad term used for the plants of the family Arecaceae, with 183 recorded genera, including the Coconut tree.

Coconut and Palm trees have similar leaves flaring outwards from a single point. However, these trees significantly differ in size, thickness, and height.

Image illustrates the four most common varieties with their key features.
Palm trees have both nutritional and aesthetic benefits.

They grow to their fullest in the damp lowland forests of South America, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and southern Asia.

Similarities Between Coconut Trees & Palm Trees

The table below explains the similarities between Coconut and Palm trees.

Native RegionsSouth-east Asia, Pacific Ocean, Northern Africa
FamilyBelongs to the family Arecaceae
AppearanceFan-like distinct wide green fronds
Climatic ZoneUSAD 10 and warmer (except for indoor palms)
PropagationSeed germination

Palm Tree Vs. Coconut Tree: Difference

To distinguish between Coconut and Palm trees, look for a distinction in size, shape, leaves, height, and fruits of both plants. 

1. Fruits Produced

The fruit of a Coconut tree is its most distinguishing feature. When Coconut trees reach the age of 4-5 years, they yield fruit.

These enormous fruits need an extra 6-12 months to mature fully. Annually, a Coconut tree yields roughly 25 fruits.

Image represent a coconut tree with fruits
Each Coconut tree can produce about 25-40 fruits during its lifespan.

However, Palm trees come in various shapes and sizes.

For instance, African Oil Palm produces brilliant red fruits in massive clusters with a lone seed. The fruit’s exterior meat and seed are both high in oil content.

Likewise, Date Palm trees are also a type of Palm, producing dates, but some may not even bear fruits.

2. Leaf Colour & Size

The Palm tree leaves, including Coconut trees, are called fronds, having a central midrib that grows to form a fan out of thin leaflets or pinnae.

Palm species are evergreen. However, these trees lose their leaves through browning throughout the year.

Huge Majesty Palms bear large leaves extending up to 8 feet, while indoor Palms can have around a foot-long leaves.

Image represents a Palm tree leaf
The leaves of Palms have unique fringed shapes, with an entire leaf composed of many leaflets.

Besides, Coconut trees (Cocos nucifera) have 200-250 leaflets in each leaf, about 13-20 feet long, and a single pinna growing 2-3 feet long. The old leaves peel away neatly, leaving the stem smooth.

Palm tree leaves vary from vibrant green to yellowish tones, like the Golden Cane Palm with beautiful golden hues.

Moreover, some Palms have small, spiky fronds, while others have fronds that may grow up to 10 feet long. For instance, the leaves of Rafia regalis reach up to 82 feet.

3. Height & Structure

Unlike Coconut, the Palm tree varieties comprise tall and dwarf plants.

While the Coconut trees may grow to 60-80 feet tall and 20-30 feet broad, the height of Palm trees varies based on the species, ranging from a few inches to 200 feet.

The world’s largest Palm, the Quindío wax Palm, can reach 200 feet and is found in the montane forests of the Andes. In contrast, Rhapis’ Super Dwarf’ Palm trees grow only about 1-2 inches.

Image represents a line of Bismarck palm planted in a garden along with many other trees.
Bismarck Palm can grow 30-60 feet but is mainly adored when maintained at low height.

The Coconut Palm tree (Cocus nucifera) has a single grayish-brown trunk with a crown of green fronds at the top.

Additionally, stems of Palm trees have fibers or spines, rough or smooth texture, single or multi variations, and underground trunks.

4. Plant Longevity

Depending on the environmental conditions, the Coconut trees can live for 70-100 years, which is still lesser than other hardwood trees. 

Areca Palm lives for 40-50 years under proper care. But as indoor plants, they have a relatively shorter lifespan of around 20 years.

Can you grow a Coconut Palm tree indoors?

All Palm trees and Coconuts can prosper indoors, but they require diffused light and moist soil with a well-draining potting environment to thrive.

Talking about Date Palms, they can live for as long as 200 years. 

5. Root Development

Coconut Palm tree roots go deeper into the soil, allowing it to survive in the wild for up to a decade.

Owing to its deep roots, it can resist even the most adverse weather conditions, such as monsoons and typhoons, providing mellow fruit and other Coconut benefits.

Image represent roots of Palm Trees
The roots of Palm trees are fibrous and extensive, preferring moist and well-draining soil.

But Palm trees have a fibrous root structure with a shallow reach of 36 inches.

Even as the plant grows more extensive, they expand horizontally and stay thin. Further, roots form a root ball from the origination zone, with some above visible ground.

6. Plant Toxicity

Most Palm trees bear recognizable fruits like Coconuts, dates, etc. However, not all fruits from Palm trees are safe to consume.

The Pet Poison Helpline states Sago Palm to be toxic for you and your pets due to the presence of cycasin. Upon ingestion, your pet may have severe nerve and liver injuries depicted by vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and cramps.

Similarly, Australian Ivy Palm poses toxins like terpenoids, saponin, and insoluble oxalates that irritate the oral cavity (mouth, tongue, and lips) with excessive drooling and difficulty swallowing in pets.

Before consuming fruits from any Palm tree, you need to be aware of the fruits’ toxicity.

Besides, Coconut trees don’t pose any toxins but are enjoyed for their refreshing sweet water and endocarp. Yet, the heavy drupe gravitating could be a threat to pedestrians.

Nevertheless, contact the American Association of Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 or ASPCA Poison Center at (800) 426-4435 for pet poisoning.

FAQs About Coconut & Palm Tree

Do Coconuts grow on Palm trees?

Even though the Coconut and other Palm trees belong to the same family, not all Palm trees bear Coconuts.

Cocos nucifera is the only Palm tree that produces Coconuts.

Why does a coconut have 3 holes?

The indentations are visible on a Coconut are germination pores.

One of the three pores is functional from which the shoot emerges, while rest two remains non-functional. 

From Editorial Team


Palm trees produce many other fruits, like dates. Moreover, they have differences in their leaf shapes, climate needs, and water requirements.

One might be tempted to try fruits from just any Palm tree, but unlike Coconut, some Palm fruit may not be safe to consume. Make sure to identify the Palm correctly.

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