Mānoa Heritage Center



Niu (Coconut)

PC: Mānoa Heritage Center

Cocos nucifera

Polynesian Introduction

Coconuts are perhaps the most useful plant on earth. The roots and husk from the nuts can be made into strong cordage. The trunk was used primarily for large pahu, or drums. The wood could be hollowed out to make small canoes or for house posts. The crown can be eaten as heart of palm. The leaves are woven to make mats, baskets, and many other items. The leaf midribs were made into brooms. The nuts provide a pure drink and food. Oil can be extracted from the meat in the nut. As a resource of the highest level, the niu was sacred to Kū and was Kū’s kino lau (bodily form)

The un-branched trunk can reach 80-100 feet at maturity, topped by a ground of leaves each up to 20 ft in length. When four or five years old, the tree begins to produce male and female flowers, followed shortly thereafter by fruits (nuts). The nuts reach full size in about six months but take almost a whole year to reach full maturity. A coconut tree can be expected to produce 25 nuts in a year. The tree’s lifespan is approximately 80-90 years.