Dwarves in your backyard – Solomon varieties of dwarf coconuts

Written by fruit   // 15/09/2011   // 0 Comments

WORDS BY PAUL RICHARDSON

PHOTOGRAPHS BY PAUL RICHARDSON AND ROGER GOEBEL

 A recent global survey found 780 described coconut varieties. Many have been developed specifically for certain commercially important traits. Tall varieties represent the majority in commercial production due to a higher copra yield and longer productive lifespan, but the merits of the dwarf varieties are well worth considering especially for the backyard or small scale production.

There were eight dwarf varieties selected from the Solomon Islands and imported by the Townsville council in the early 1980’s. The original plan was to replace some of the tall palms along The Strand with these impressive compact varieties for foreshore stability and tourism appeal. I won’t elaborate on the perceived danger issue but it is said “coconuts have eyes of their own and have long serve mankind”.

The original Solomon collection has been well maintained and one of the originals, the Malay Golden dwarf found its way to the far north with thanks to the old Kamerunga research station in Cairns. There are also a number of the shorter palms, known as village dwarfs, growing around the Cape York Peninsula. They are very compact palms – small enough to grow in containers and bear numerous, small, golden orange fruits with thin husks and great flavour. Others are the Red Spicata dwarf which has a stalkless fruit attached directly to the main stem of the bunch, a Malay Yellow dwarf which is also very thin husked with medium sized light flavoured fruits, and a Giant Green dwarf which has a full size crown but extremely compact trunk.

 In general, dwarf coconuts are self pollinating, precocious, high yielding, easy to harvest, and tolerant of diseases such as ‘Lethal Yellowing’ and poor soils. Many will fruit within four years in a moist tropical climate and reach full output by six years, often with coconuts touching the ground. The productive life is considerably less for the dwarf palm varieties which have life spans of approximately 40-60 years, as opposed to 80-120 years for talls. Dwarfs reach heights from 5 to 12m, depending on variety, although, at a much slower pace than talls, as generally all the palm proportions are smaller.

Plantation production of dwarf coconuts has been most successful in Brazil where the market is for drinking coconuts rather than oil production. It is estimated three billion coconuts are consumed by Brazilians annually and there is a growing demand for tetra-pak coco juice export products from USA and European markets. They are the wealthiest coconut farmers in the world as their product is easily harvested at only 8 months maturity, for peak sugar and electrolyte concentration, and at 12-14 months being fully mature and oil ready.

 

 


Tags:

coconut

dwarf

islands

solomon


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