Coconut Safety

29 Apr 2006

It is so easy to glance up at a palm and think, “Oh, it’s OK. I can just walk right under here for a second.” And it will probably be all right. However, every year in Hawaii, dozens of people suffer traumatic head injuries from falling coconuts. No matter how assiduous and careful you may be, the fact remains that a coconut can fall at any moment, any time, day or night, without warning, knocking you to the ground and seriously curtailing your activities for days, weeks, or – in extreme cases – months. One nut can kill an adult or child especially if it lands right in the middle of your head. The fall is silent.

Everyone loves coconuts: nutritious, tasty, and elegant, their palms epitomize the tropics and well as providing a delightful addition to one’s edible and ornamental garden. For more than 30 years, I’ve espoused their attributes as well spread widely a snippet of traditional wisdom that I was taught in Samoa back in the 1970’s: “a coconut never falls on the head of a good person”. I don’t believe it any more. I’m a good person, acutely aware of coconut dangers, but a 7lb green coconut fell 35 feet onto my head when I was momentarily in a “red zone” and I’ll never forget it!

Since I have never seen any tips on “Coconut Safety”, I would like to offer the following pointers for homeowners and landscapers. They are especially relevant for residents of wet, windy, windward coasts where coconut palms often have the fungal phytopthora disease known as “coconut heart rot”. For years before the palms finally expire, their green nuts bear characteristic brown splotches, especially around the stem end. This brown rotting tissue weakens the fruit stems causing them to fall prematurely. Rats gnawing on both immature and mature nuts also hastens their fall.

Do’s and Don’ts for Coconut Landscaping:

- Do not plant coconuts anywhere near parking areas, driveways, front walkways, or other areas in which you (or others) walk regularly.

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