Types of Coconuts

Counting the Categories:
Unveiling the Different Types of Coconuts

Coconut is quickly becoming one of the more popular ingredients around the world.

It is used in food, beauty products, and more. However, there might be a lot of things that you don’t know about coconut.

For instance, do you know how many different types of coconuts there are?

If you are looking for answers, then you have come to the right place. Here you can find the lowdown on the various varieties of coconut.

Background Information on Coconuts

Before moving onto the different kinds of coconuts, let’s first learn more about this tree and its “fruit”.

What Tree Do Coconuts Come From?

Coconuts are formed on trees that are known as coconut palm trees.

Now, this can lead to some confusion with people assuming that they are the same as palm trees. However, this isn’t the case.

While coconut trees and palm trees are from the same family, they belong to different species.

What Type of Fruit is a Coconut?

Just by looking at a coconut, it would be hard to classify it. This is because it has features of a fruit, seed, and nut.

So, which category does it fall into?

Well, if you want to get scientific about it, coconut is actually a drupe. Botanically speaking, a drupe is a fruit with a hard covering enclosing the seed.

As with all drupes, the coconut consists of three layers – the outer layer (exocarp), the fleshy middle layer (mesocarp), and the woody layer (endocarp).

palm trees in Maldives

Where Do Coconuts Grow?

These days, you can find coconut plantations all over the world. However, if you were to consider the genetic history of the drupe, it was originally found in countries in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

Scientists can definitively concur that coconuts were grown in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and the Laccadive Islands. They are also quite common in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

How Many Types of Coconuts Are There?

The same genetic study that identified where some coconuts originated from discovered another interesting fact.

It was found that there were two different kinds of coconuts. These are known as Niu kafa and Niu vai.

The Niu kafa has a more triangular shape and is oblong with a more fibrous husk. The Niu vai boasts a rounder shape and contains sweet coconut water.

men carrying coconuts

Brown Coconut vs. Green Coconut

Some people mistakenly believe that brown and green coconuts are different coconut varieties.

However, they both belong to the same species and tree.

The only variation is that green and brown coconuts are at different ripening stages. Green coconuts are young and haven’t ripened as yet. Brown coconuts, on the other hand, are fully matured.

Green coconuts don’t contain a great deal of meat yet. Instead, most people crack them open to enjoy the delicious liquid inside.

Brown coconuts don’t have much water, but they do contain a thicker layer of meat which has a higher fat content. 

Types of Coconut Trees

There are two distinct types of coconut palms. These are known as the dwarf and the tall varieties.

However, several trees fall under each category.

Also, for agricultural and commercial purposes, you can find hybrid varieties.

Here is some information about each type along with a list of their uses.

coconut trees

Dwarf Varieties

As the name suggests, dwarf varieties are smaller than other trees. They are often between 5 and 7 meters in height.

These trees also flower at an earlier stage, reaching regular bearing in the ninth year. However, they can flower as early as in their third year.

The coconuts from these trees are smaller and have a rounded shape.

These trees can live up to 40 or 50 years.

Tall Varieties

The tall varieties can grow as tall as 18 meters, perhaps even more. They have a longer lifespan as well, often living up to 90 years.

This variety has a later flowering period and they may only be able to bear fruit after 8 or 10 years after they are planted.

The fruits have a spherical or oblong shape. 

Hybrid Varieties

As mentioned, hybrid varieties are suitable for commercial purposes.

This is because they have an earlier flowering period and a far higher yield than their parents.

Not to mention, they tend to produce more copra and oil as well. 


Coconut is often considered a versatile tree in many cultures. This is because virtually every element of it can be used by the local population.

One of its most well-known uses is the oil derived from the flesh. The desiccated form of the flesh can be submerged in water and used to produce coconut milk.

The coconut water can be used in a couple of different ways. While it can be drunk straight away as a refreshing beverage, it can also be fermented.

Related Reading

When coconut water is fermented it can form vinegar or alcohol.

Many tourist destinations are associated with coconut palms. Due to this, it isn’t unusual to find numerous trees around holiday resorts.

The leaves from the coconut tree can be woven to make baskets and similar containers.

The husk of the coconut can be incorporated into coir, brooms, and mats. The shell can be turned into charcoal or broken up for jewelry. 

Related Reading

There is so much to know about the genetic and physical makeup of coconut and coconut trees.

As you can see, there are two main types of coconuts and coconut trees. However, the hybrid can be considered yet another type.

Riya Borah


Riya Borah 

Nutritionist Educator

Riya Borah is a nutritionist educator and her job involves guiding people towards a healthier lifestyle. Growing up in India, Riya was aware of just how much coconut was used on a daily basis. This encouraged her to research the properties of this versatile drupe. It opened her eyes to both the limitation and possibilities of coconut. Her aim is to now educate as many people as possible about the best ways to utilize coconut in their own lives.

Related Articles

Coconut Oil on Leather: Does It Help with Maintenance?

Putting the Pieces Together: What is Desiccated Coconut?

No Fuss, No Mess: How to Get Coconut Oil Out Of Clothes