The coconut tree grows from a single seed, which is an entire coconut, taking between six and 10 years to bear fruit, and living between 60 and 80 years. Each coconut takes a year to develop from a flower into a fruit. These fruits bear thick, tough husks and achieve a very wide distribution by dropping into the oceans where currents carry them, sometimes for thousands of miles.
Coconuts are an important fruit in many parts of the world, though humans are one of the few species that can actually make use of them. The heavy fruits are known as drupes, which are a group of fruits that includes species such as plums and peaches. Drupes have a hard seed pod surrounded by a mass of softer tissue. The fruit of a coconut is extremely fibrous and very tough. Its structure protects it from hungry animals as well as protects the embryo on long ocean journeys, keeping out salt water and preserving the seed for up to three months at sea.
Research suggests that coconuts first appeared near the Indian Ocean, but because of their remarkable dispersal abilities reached South America before human travel across the oceans was even possible.