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Tree (Cocos nucifera) of the palm family, one of the most important crops of the tropics. Its slender, leaning, ringed trunk rises from a swollen base and is topped by a graceful crown of giant, feathery leaves. The large ovoid or ellipsoid mature fruits have a thick, fibrous husk surrounding the familiar single-seeded nut. The nut contains a white and somewhat sweet meat, which is eaten raw; coconut oil is extracted from the meat. The nutritious liquid milk at the centre may be drunk directly from the nut. The husk provides coir, a fibre highly resistant to salt water that is used in the manufacture of ropes, mats, baskets, brushes, and brooms. The nutshells are used as containers and often decoratively carved.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on coconut palm, visit Britannica.com.