Coconut palm


Roots above ground, roots below ground: it's all quite simple, so don't let anyone palm you off with mysterious twaddle.


Coconut mysteries

I like a good mystery. The old Loch Ness Monster theory is all well and good, but you know that regardless of how many years they spend looking and how many millions of pounds they spend on the latest high-tech monster-spotting gadgets, they’ll never find a thing.

Some mysteries are solved, though. Going back a few years, Britain was plagued with crop circles that appeared in the middle of corn fields all over the country seemingly overnight. Aliens were initially blamed, as they were an easy target – no aliens popped up to deny it.

It wasn’t until a bunch of university students admitted to trampling cornfields with wooden boards that people realized they’d been completely fooled. Aliens from outer space coming down and sending messages to us in our fields? Total bunkum.

What I find even more fascinating are the mysteries that will never be solved. I’m talking about situations such as that annoying noise coming deep from within the bowels of the engine compartment of your car that’s driving you completely up the wall. Your tolerance for this interminable noise finally reaches breaking point.

You drive into your local garage to let an expert pinpoint the problem, fix it and put you out of your misery once and for all. But what happens? The noise mysteriously disappears as soon as you drive in, and all that you can really say is something pathetic like, “Well it normally makes this loud ‘eek eek eek’ kind of sound.”

You then drive away feeling more than a little ridiculous, with that infernal noise inevitably returning soon afterwards.

There are more mysteries in the field (sorry) of gardening than I’d care to consider, but there is one, involving the omnipresent coconut tree, that has only been solved for me in recent years. I could never work out why the base of a coconut tree often has the start of its roots above ground.

The answer to this question became apparent after I conducted a small experiment in my front garden a few years ago. I claimed a couple of coconuts that had fallen from a nearby fully-grown tree, and dug a hole for one and put the other on top of the ground.

With nothing more than water, both grew, but the difference was that the roots of the tree that appeared from the buried coconut were below ground and a lot neater; the one that started off above ground had six inches to go down first, which is where those weird, bicycle spoke roots appear from. That’s the way they grow in the wild, of course – mystery solved. Obvious when you think about it.

This plant probably best symbolizes tropical spots such as Phuket. Picture a beach anywhere in the world, and what’s drooping majestically over it? A coconut palm.

In the race to develop the island, build bigger and more palatial hotels and to construct more holiday homes for our visitors, what’s the first thing to go? The trees that have happily sat there for years making the island look like a tropical paradise – precisely why we came here in the first place.

It’s a serious shame, but everyone here can help redress the balance by planting a coconut palm in their own yards. It can be anywhere to be honest, in your own garden, the unattended garden next door, or even in the corner of your landlord’s garden – I’m sure he won’t mind.

It’s not exactly a complicated process – here are some instructions:

1. Go outside.
2. Find the nearest coconut that has fallen from the nearest tree.
3. Shake it and make sure it makes a swishing sound.
4. Take it home.
5. Put it on a wall or in a corner on the floor – it doesn’t really matter.
6. Do absolutely nothing.
7. Wait for a shoot to appear, which will rise naturally skyward.
8. Wait a bit longer, and another shoot will start to grow downwards.
9. Put it in a hole in the soil. If you can’t be bothered with the exertion of digging a hole, then don’t. Just leave it on the ground. It’ll grow anyway.
10. Have a beer. You’ve earned it.
11. Water it (the coconut, not the beer).
12. Keep watering it (if you can summon the energy).
13. Wait.
14. You’ve got a coconut tree.

There isn’t anything more to it. The hardest thing you’ll need to do is walk out of your front gate, bend over (watch your back – you don’t want to over-exert yourself) and pick up a coconut. Those with heart conditions should obviously consult their doctors before undertaking strenuous activity, so perhaps this part of the process should be delegated.

Long-term, your biggest consideration won’t be the maintenance of the coconut palm, as it pretty much looks after itself. The main problem will be where the coconuts will fall if they’re not regularly harvested. How many cars, buildings and Phuket residents have sustained serious damage from falling coconuts over the years? Countless.

Full sun? No problem. Sandy soil, or soil lacking the nutrients for most normal plants to grow? No problem. High winds? These will survive a hurricane, and still come out smiling.

Plant a coconut tree for yourself. Sorry if I sound like one of those really bad DIY TV programs, but Phuket will look all the better for it.

You’ll probably have to stock up your fridge with beer though, as you’ll have plenty of spare time. No mystery there.


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