Palm Tree vS Coconut Tree

Palm tree vs Coconut Tree - that is the question! Why are you wondering?

  • Were you thinking of that idyllic trip: a Beach Sunset With Coconut Trees? Palm trees vs coconut trees often stirs a fun debate when you're Planning a Tropical Vacation.
  • Maybe you're working on an educational project. It could be your college treatise or a school science assignment. You want to Know Your Stuff before beginning! Like How They Grow.
  • Are you considering growing a palm or coconut tree? Starting with a seed or palm seedling. (Remember - it's a long-term commitment!) Yet watching them thrive can be an enriching experience.

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Here at Mission: Palm Trees

Palm lovers can get the info needed to ease their palm-related search tasks & worries. For enjoying our informative articles, while having fun finding things you want or need. Without unneeded shoptalk lingo & tiring endless research.

You're just completing a written task? Or thinking of a Tropical Touch in Your Backyard. Are you planning to stay at a Tropical Resort? Or even learn more about the wonders of nature. Understanding how palm trees and coconut trees relate can only enhance your appreciation.

Several coconut palm trees with their fruits up in the crownCocos nucifera = Coconut Trees
Couple in the outdoors doing research for the difference of a Coconut Tree vs  a Palm TreeWhat's the Difference?
Which is What?
Palm tree in the harbor at Port Douglas, Queensland AustraliaSolitary Palm Tree - No Coconuts!

We see assorted ways the Palm Trees vs Coconut Trees question may come up. And that question pops up: Which Tree is Which? We're here to demystify these cryptic tropical flora. Just roll on down the page...

Key Difference of a Palm Tree vs Coconut Tree

Let's start with a key revelation:

  • Not all palm trees are coconut trees
  • But all coconut trees are indeed palm trees.
  1. Coconuts grow on palm trees.

Is that surprising, or unclear? We'll explain, if you're still wondering: "Is a coconut tree a palm tree?"

Palm trees are scientifically known as the plant family, Arecaceae. The coconut tree is just one palm tree species. Standing tall amidst about 2600 other palm species. Which aren't coconut palms.

Palm trees are a family of plants. A coconut tree is one species in that large family. So yes, a coconut tree is a palm tree! But yet, remember Palms Aren't True Trees. But many are tree-like, as is the coconut palm. Because of their tall trunk with a crown of leaves.

Looking up at the crown of Cocos nucifera, the Coconut Palm Tree with fruitCocos nucifera, one species in the family of Palms.

Coconut Tree vs Palm Tree Height

Try recreating an image of a tall, slender trunk crowned with sprawling green leaves! You're envisioning that typical palm tree. Which may be a Coconut Palm, or maybe not! Each palm tree species is a story of its own. With Many Shapes or Silhouettes.

Heights go from 6-inch ground level, to the Tallest Palms in the World, at 150+ feet (45+ meters). Coconut palm trees reach a majestic height, up to 98 feet (almost 30 meters).


A coconut palm stands out from the crowd.

  • With tropically flowing pinnate leaves. These fronds amazingly reach close to 20 feet. Sprouting at the top of a slender 1-foot diameter trunk. 
  • And what About Those Palm Fronds? Fan Palms model a different leaf pattern altogether. Compared to a coconut palm's feather fronds.

Like all palms, because of How They Grow, coconut palms are known for resilience against vigorous winds. You may have seen this when watching hurricane films.


We have first hand experience, as many have. We watched palms start to bend in 2005, as Hurricane Wilma came in. When we were in Cancun! Until they closed all the storm shutters.

palm trees begin feeling the effects of Hurricane Wilma in 2005The Front of Our Resort in Cancun as Hurrican Wilma is Only Beginning its Fury!

Amongst this fascinating palm family, you're probably wondering "What palm trees grow coconuts?" The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) has these fruits.

Why Do Palm Trees Not Grow Coconuts?


As we've seen, palm trees vs coconut trees relate to each other. But were you wondering: Do all palms produce coconuts? No, most palm trees do not grow coconuts.

Only the Cocos nucifera species grow these Palm Fruits. They've been cultivated for that fruit for centuries.

But growers created other forms, often referred to as varieties. That's normally to avoid coconut Palm Problems, like lethal yellowing.

Some names for other forms are: Tall Jamaican, Maypan, Green Malayan Dwarf, Panama Tall & Golden Malayan Dwarf.

These palms all produce coconuts, too!

The Manila Dwarf palm is a variety of the Cocos nucifera palmAnother Cocos nucifera Variety - the Manila Dwarf

Palm Trees Grow Coconuts
But Only the nucifera Species 

Hold on, it gets more interesting! Palm trees are as diverse as they come.

The Coconut Palm is only one of many palm trees with fruit. Such as the Date Palm. Which stands tall, gracing us with delightful clusters of sweet fruits. 

But then you have palms like the Zombie Palm. With fruits you can't eat. Although people feed the seeds to pigs.

So, palm trees do bear fruit. That's what holds the seed for Growth of a Palm offspring. 

Date palms growing in a commercial grove in ArizonaOur Son's Photo of Arizona Date Palm Commercial Grove
Zombie Palm Tree in Sarasota FLCalled the Zombie Palm - Zombia antillarum

How do Coconuts Grow?

So how do coconuts grow? What happens atop the majestic coconut palm? Each palm produces 30 to 75 annual coconut treats for us.

Looking up, you'll see clusters of coconuts. A Tropical Sight to Behold! Coconuts mature over a period of around a year. Then they're ripe & ready for harvesting.

You probably know they can naturally drop to the ground! If one clunks you on the head, it's dangerous. Be aware of that. But it's rare that people are injured.

man stands beneath a Coconut Palm trying to catch the coconut as it is fallingTrying to Catch the Falling Coconut?? Be VERY Careful!


Coconuts' actual purpose is to enable coconut palm reproduction. Monoecious male & female flowers appear. They're white to pale yellow. But each gender blossoms at different times on the same palm.

That way wind or insects will cross-pollinate, amidst different plants. This cross-breeding helps a healthier, diverse gene pool for coconut fruit.

several coconuts with two beginning to sprout new coconut palmsTwo Coconuts Sprouting New Cocos nucifera Palms

Coconut Palm Tree Uses

Coconut Palms are probably economically the most important palm of all. When ripe, coconuts may be green, yellow or brown. The treasure is the inner chewy flesh surrounding a natural thirst-quencher: sweet coconut water.

Most palm species have versatile uses. The coconut palm's other economic uses are oil, decor, frond thatch & building timber. Even Garden Mulch! (We've used this & love it!)

Illustration from the 1800s of opened up coconuts, one with its milk, the other showing the edible meat1880 Illustration By Michael Garnier of Opened Coconuts

Growing Coconut Palm Trees

Have a green thumb? The coconut palm could be your new backyard resident.

They need warmth & full sun. The coconut palm zone is only 10b-11. Tolerates salty areas & some dry conditions when established. Especially nice is their relatively quick growth. Although the seed itself could take up to a year to begin sprouting. Yet fruiting happens when as little as 3 feet tall.

Takeaways for Palm Trees vs Coconut Trees

Now it's clear that Coconut Trees are Palm Trees. The species amidst more that 2000 others. Coconut Palms are very tall, and remind us a lot of the tropics. We've seen how many uses coconut palms have. And we also can find the places where we can go to vacation amidst Coconut Palms!

Do you have exciting, tropical holiday plans? Maybe Palm Beach, Hawaii, or Cancun Area?

Explore the Exotic Assortment of palms adorning your chosen destination. Including that coconut palm tree silhouette for a beach sunset photo remembrance.


We hope your mental image of a palm vs a coconut tree is now clear. If you have questions, though, please Send Them Over. We'll try to help.

The world of palm trees vs coconut trees can seem enormous. Yet every member of the palm family is unique. They add value ornamentally, economically, or both.

In this diverse crowd, the coconut palm reigns supreme! Aptly hailed as the prima donna of the tropics.

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