The national tree of the Maldives, Coconut Palm is a tree with a universal presence on nearly every Maldivian island while being a main feature of our ecosystem. Considered as the most important plant on the tiny islands of the Maldives, it has a long lifespan of more than 100 years and can grow up to 70 to 110 metres in mature height. The evergreen plant comprises of a single trunk, its bark smooth and grey, marked by ringed scars left by fallen leaf bases. The tree is also etched into the Maldivian national emblem and the coat of arms.
Coconut Palms bear fruit resembling a rather large nut, originally in bunches and each flaunting a size equivalent to a football. The fruit contains a thick yet edible flesh with a cavity filled with nutrient and tasty rich water. The Maldivians have discovered several uses for this plant, in its different stages, from making coir rope using the coconut husk to the distinguished custom of thatched roofs using coconut leaves that is often found in the present day resorts.
- The coconut palm has been a life saver since the first settlers inhabited the Maldives about 5000 years ago, playing a vital role in the economy as well as in the food and nutrition security of the Maldivian people.
- The seed provides oil for frying, cooking, and making margarine, while acting as a moisturiser for body and hair.
- Desiccated coconut or coconut milk made from it is frequently added to curries and other savoury dishes.
- Coconut wood has proved to supply great value to the Maldivians in the areas of design and construction. The trunk of the wood is used for construction of houses, while the other wood is the well preferred element in the boat building industry.
- Virgin coconut oil extracted from scraped coconut is used in making soaps, lotion and balms.
- One of the most traditional foods produced from the coconut plant is the nectar (toddy) collected from the flower cluster while unopened via a small container. The toddy is also boiled into sugary syrup known as “Dhiya Hakuru”, and it is also fermented to yield vinegar.