Coconut palm trees, as the name implies, are a species of palm tree. The biggest and most obvious difference is that the coconut palm produces coconuts. Many other palms produce palm oil while coconut palms produce coconut oil. Lastly, coconut trees have subtle differences in leaf shape and trunk color that help to distinguish them from their cousin trees.
Table of Contents
What is the Difference Between Coconut Trees and Palm Trees?
A coconut palm and other palm trees share many similarities but there are a few key differences. Most of these differences center on fruit grown, oil production, and minor shape or color differences.
Coconut fruits are the most obvious difference between coconut palms and most types of palm trees. Plenty of palm trees do not grow fruit, but some can grow fruits like acai, dates, or peaches. And yes, coconuts are only produced by the coconut palm. If a palm tree is growing fresh coconuts, it is a coconut palm. If a palm tree does not and cannot grow coconuts, then it is any other type of palm tree.
The biggest indicator of difference after coconut growth is the type of oil that can be harvested. Coconut trees produce coconut oil but virtually every other palm tree produces palm oil instead. Palm oil is harvested from palm fruit while coconut oil is harvested from the coconut fruit. Both oils are heavily used in tropical climates but coconut oil is considered healthier due to having more nutrients.
Coconut trunks are fairly distinctive from other palms. Coconut trunks tend to have a pronounced curve and they are often very smooth in texture. By comparison, most palm trees grow perfectly vertical and have a scaly trunk. Lastly, coconut trunks tend to be a bit lighter in color than most palm tree trunks.
This difference is subtler than the previous examples but palm trees have fan-shaped leaves. Coconut plants have wide leaves but they never quite grow into a fan shape. Because the leaves are the same color, texture, and often close in size, this distinction can be hard to spot if you don’t have much experience with different palm tree species.
Are Coconut and Palm Trees Really Trees?
Both types of palm “trees” are actually perennial flowering plants that are tree-like. Palms resemble trees in every meaningful way to an outside observer including having trunks made of wood. Coconut farmers have even been known to produce things like boats from coconut timber.
- Palms do not fit the technical definition of a tree.
- It’s still acceptable to refer to palms as trees in most parts of society.
Palm species do not grow bark or form tree rings as they grow. So, they do not meet the scientific definition of “tree.” However, no one will blame you for still calling a palm a tree.
Do Coconuts and Palm Oil Come from the Same Tree?
Palm oil comes from palm trees that grow palm fruit. Coconut oil comes from coconut trees that grow coconut fruit. That is because both of these oils come from the respective fruits that give them their names. Thus, palm oil comes from palm fruit and coconut oil comes from the coconut fruit.
- Palm oil comes from the palm tree fruit and coconut oil from coconut tree fruit.
- Both of these oils are widely used for cooking around the world.
Both oils have plenty of similar uses and are widely used around the world. Palm oil is a bit cheaper and coconut oil is a bit healthier. You can commonly see palm oil among the ingredients of many foods you purchase at the grocery store.
What are the Differences Between Coconut and Palm Trees?
Coconut trees and palm trees are cousins with many similarities. It can be hard to tell the two apart but there are a few distinctive features to keep an eye out for:
- Coconut trees and palm trees are subcategories of the same type of tree.
- Coconut trees grow coconuts, produce coconut oil, have curvy and smooth trunks, and have wide leaves.
- Palm trees grow palm fruits, produce palm oil, have scaly and textured trunks, and have fan-shaped leaves.
- Neither type of palm tree is truly a tree—both are perennial plants.
This should give aspiring coconut growers a way to tell different palms apart. Be sure to let everyone know that it should actually be called a coconut plant rather than a coconut tree.