Cocos nucifera  L. Coconut  - Arecaceae

Now naturalized throughout the tropics, the coconut, Cocos nucifera, is indigenous to Indo-Malaya.  The fibrous husk of the fruit contains a single large coconut seed whose dried meat, called copra, is the principal product of the coconut.  The rough fiber of the husk is used to make mats, ropes, baskets, brushes and jewelry.

The coconut has religious significance for Hindus and Buddhists because the fruit resembles the head of a man and symbolizes fecundity.  In ancient times the fruit was offered to the gods instead of a human head as a symbol of sacrifice.  In ceremonial rites the nut was given as an offering to the sacrificial fire.  At the inauguration of an important ceremony coconuts are split open and served as an offering.  Oriental journalists refer to this as "coconutizing the occasion".3

The Yoruba people of Nigeria have traditionally regarded coconut very highly.  Legend describes coconuts as a special gift of the Mother of the Yoruba nation to her children, as the coconut tree, like a mother, gives life and nourishment to them.

The Yoruba string thin disks of coconut shell together, making a strand they believe resembles the powerful body of a python.  At one time Nigerian chiefs and their families were the only ones permitted to wear the disk-shell necklaces, which they wore in strands of three.4