Classification of any part of the plant is an extremely complicated issue for a common man with limited knowledge of Botany.
In general language, a coconut is referred to sometimes as a fruit or a nut or even a seed. However, for botanists, it is none of these. In scientific terminology, a coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe.A drupe is defined as a fruit having a hard tough stony covering with a seed enclosed within. All drupes are three layered namely; the exocarp (outer layer), the mesocarp (fleshy middle layer), and the endocarp (hard, woody layer around the seed). A coconut also shows presence of these three layers. However, before being marketed, the exocarp, which is smooth and green, is removed. The fibrous husk or the mesocarp is also often removed before sale. The hard brown woody part that we see surrounding the coconut meat is the endocarp. Examples of other drupes are mango, almond and pistachio.
Many scientists categorize coconut as a seed. Biologically, a seed is defined as the reproductive unit of a flowering plant. A seed encloses the baby plant with embryo root and embryo leaves. The endosperm is the part within a seed that provides nutrition to the young plant. In those terms, a coconut fulfills these requirements. A coconut tree grows from the germination of a coconut. The three ‘eyes’ on the nut denote pores from where the germination commences and the shoot emerges. The white meat inside the endocarp personifies the endosperm providing food for growth to the embryo. This endosperm provides nourishment to the embryo until it attains maturity to photosynthesize and absorb nutrients independently. The firmness and density of the coconut meat or endosperm is directly proportional to the stage of maturity of the coconut.
Coconut is also classified under nuts. Most people slot a coconut in this category thanks to the suffix 'nut' attached to its name. Also, a nut is commonly known as a one-seeded fruit. However, a coconut does not truly qualify as a nut. A true nut releases its seeds only on the decaying of the fruit wall or intervention of animals, but definitely not on their own at maturity.
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