Species Guide: Craft Plants


A coconut palm with its feather-like leaves and straight, upright trunk. Photo by Goh Shang Ming

Common name: Coconut Palm

Malay name: Kelapa, Nyiur

Scientific name: Cocos nucifera

Conservation status: Cultivated, Native to Malaysia


A palm tree that reaches 30 m tall. It is crowned by large, feather-like leaves. Stem is straight, unbranched, have rings of scar. It bears small, clustered flowers and roundish fruits which turn from light green or yellow to brown when ripe.

Habit: Perennial tree

Cultivation: It is planted by seeds

Ecological function: The flowers of this plant attract insect pollinators. It is host plant of many butterflies and moths e.g. Hidari irava (coconut skipper) and Tirathaba rufivena (coconut spike moth). As this plant produces flowers and fruits all year round, it provides a stable source of food for wildlife.

Pollinator: Wind, insects

Soil: Sand, loam, clay, organic soils

Moisture: Moist, well-drained soils. It is drought-tolerant.

Shade: No shade

Use in crafting: The leaves of this plant are used as thatching materials or in making baskets and mats. Malay community uses the leaves to make ketupat, a traditional rice-based dish that is usually prepared for festive seasons.

A bunch of cooked ketupat wrapped in woven coconut leaves. Photo credit: Meutia Chaerani, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Other use: The coconut milk that is processed from the freshly grated flesh has been traditionally used in Asian culinary. Coconut husks can be used as mulch to fertilise soil and conserve moisture. Coconut oil can be used for cooking or in manufacture of margarine, confectioneries, soaps and cosmetics. Coconut palm wood is suitable for making furniture, household utensils and tool handles.

By ShangMing

A plant lover. I like small, medium, gigantic, ordinary, exotic, local, foreign plants. Just because they thrive to stand out.