THE COCONUT THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
The coconut was well distributed before the age of European exploration, making its origin difficult to trace. While the plants most related to the coconut are found in Northwest South America, before Columbus the coconut was known on only a small part of the Pacific coast and not at all on the Atlantic coast of South or Central America. The evidence is varied and controversial, but most probably the original coconut developed in the area from Southeast Asia to the Pacific islands, where coconut culture is well advanced. Adapted to disbursal by the seas, the coconut could have been distributed even without the help of humankind, although the roles of humans in selecting and transporting coconuts are evident. While the coconut today is produced throughout the tropics, nevertheless the most important regions of production are still the islands of the South Pacific, Malaysia, Indonesia. This concentration of production in one region does not negate the fact that the coconut is well known and important in all parts of the tropics.
The coconut is broadly adapted to the tropics. While associated with the seashore and thus with lands near sea level, the coconut can be found in large inland plantations in some countries, and is frequently seen as well in the foothills of the mountains. It cannot tolerate much frost, however, nor extremes of either flooding or drought. While usually found in sands, coconuts can be grown in a wide variety of soils.
Coconuts are highly varied. Roughly divided into two kinds, the tall and the dwarf, the first varies in shape and size of the nut and the husk which surrounds it, and in the special uses for which a variety is used, as a drink, for the soft pulp, or for the mature pulp. The dwarf varieties are more resistant to lethal yellowing, a fatal disease of palms, and include external fruit colours ranging from green to yellow to orange and even red. While the tall coconuts are cross pollinated, as the rule the dwarfs pollinate themselves.