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It’s Just a Coconut…Right?

June 8, 2011

A coil of sennit, hand-woven from coconut husk fibers at the National Park of American Samoa.

The coconut is the most useful of all plants in American Samoa.  The tree provides a wide range of useful products, and nearly all its parts except its roots are used.

Meat of the green nut is eaten raw or grated and used as a basic ingredient in a number of dishes. Grated coconut, when compressed in a strainer, produces a whitish liquid known as “coconut cream,” which is also a vital part of many Samoan recipes.  Water in the fruit is used as a drink, and the nuts can be carried on bonito fishing expeditions as a water source as well as food.

The shell of the fruit is used for utensils for eating or drinking, or scooping.  It is also used to hold and store dyes, fish lines, and other small items.

Leaves are woven into baskets, house blinds, food trays, fans, hats, floor mats, sandals, toys, and units of thatch.  Fibers from the nut’s outer husk are twisted into a very strong and durable cordage, called sennit, and used in all house and outrigger lashings.  Sennit is used to lash outriggers to canoes as saltwater did not cause the rope to deteriorate or weaken.  The husk of the fruit may also be burned as fuel or its fibers separated and used as a strainer for kava and other liquids.  Its strong, heavy wood is used for some house components, headrests, rollers for canoes, cricket bats, and fuel.

Kernels of the mature nut, when compressed in a strainer woven of hibiscus bark, produces oil, lolo, that Samoans use for a variety of cosmetic and medical purposes. It is used to groom the hair, oil the skin (on ceremonial occasions), and, since it is often scented with fragrant blossoms, it is used as a perfume or cologne. Swimmers oil their bodies for warmth, and lolo is used as a dressing for cuts and sores.

For more information about American Samoa and Samoan culture, be sure to visit the website of the National Park of American Samoa!

36 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2010 4:47 am

    Fascinating! I currently live in the Yucatan where there are loads of coconuts, and I had no idea how useful they can be! Thanks for sharing!

    • Pacific Island Ranger permalink*
      June 1, 2010 10:14 am

      Mahalo for the comment! Everyday it seems I learn about the “Amazing Coconut”. Thanks for checking out our Pacific Islands National Park blog! Stay tuned for lots more…oh, and check out the recent lava eruption videos/pictures we’ve posted! Aloha!

  2. June 1, 2010 6:20 am

    the coconut is very valuable, and there are many countries who rely on the coconut for food, & econonmy. Nice blog, simple and valuable

  3. June 1, 2010 7:01 am

    Wow, all of that possible from one type of plant. That’s amazing. Thanks for the insight.

    • Pacific Island Ranger permalink*
      June 1, 2010 10:15 am

      Mahalo for the comment! Thanks for checking out our Pacific Islands National Park blog! Stay tuned for lots more…oh, and check out the recent lava eruption videos/pictures we’ve posted! Aloha!

  4. June 1, 2010 7:32 am

    Wow! That’s nuts!:) What a gift the coconut is.

  5. June 1, 2010 8:48 am

    Wow! This is so factual and you said much in a few lines! Thanks for sharing about the valuable coconut.

  6. June 1, 2010 8:51 am

    I love coconut, and this article gives me more information to share with students. Thanks.

  7. June 1, 2010 8:54 am

    So interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Haberler permalink
    June 1, 2010 10:58 am

    I really enjoyed this post. You’re a great writer.

  9. June 1, 2010 11:16 am


    Wow, loved the information and the photograph that accompanied it. My husband and I cannot wait to visit your beautiful world and learn all that we can. Maholo for creating such a fantastic blog!

  10. June 1, 2010 12:03 pm

    I love coconut and it makes it even better to know that the entire fruit is useful!

  11. Anonymous permalink
    June 1, 2010 3:43 pm

    that is why in the philippines, the coconut is called the tree of life =D

  12. June 1, 2010 4:46 pm

    wow never know coconut so usefullll! thanks for sharing!

    • Pacific Island Ranger permalink*
      June 1, 2010 5:38 pm

      Mahalo nui loa to all of our new viewers today! Stretching across thousands of miles of open ocean, YOUR national parks in the Pacific offer a world of amazing experiences, from active volcanoes of Hawaii’s Big Island, to the epic battlefields of World War II on Guam & Saipan, to the ancient Polynesian cultures represented in the islands of American Samoa. All of our contributors work in these national parks and offer first-hand accounts of the events, significance and wonder of these special places.

      We know that many of you will never have the opportunity to set foot in these amazing places, which is why we offer this site…so that in some small way you will be able to experience what we are fortunate enough to experience each and every day. On behalf of the park rangers and park employees that contribute every day to this site, we say “Aloha! Talofa! Hafa Adai!”

  13. June 1, 2010 7:15 pm

    The creamy inner part is good for sunburn.

  14. June 1, 2010 7:52 pm

    the only thing you didnt provide is where we can get LOLO. I love the scent of Coconut when its burnt, (call me crazy) the only time I smelled it though is in hawaii, both times I went. they dont use it to cook the pig though. I wonder why?

  15. songbird permalink
    June 1, 2010 8:04 pm

    Wow, I had no idea you could have so many uses from one small coconut!!! Amazing!

  16. Lulu permalink
    June 1, 2010 8:54 pm

    There are many coconuts as well in my country, and we often drink the water under the shady trees. nice!!
    Thanks for sharing this:-)
    I love coconuts

  17. Spacey permalink
    June 1, 2010 9:42 pm

    In my native language a coconut tree is called “Kalpa-vruksha” – A tree that can give one everything one wants…food, water, shelter, clothing…you name it and its there. I call it miracle tree!

    very well written…


  18. June 1, 2010 10:47 pm

    In India,esp. along the western beach side called konkan,a very savory drink called “solkadhi” is made from coconut milk….its very delicious…and healthy too!!!A must taste for everyone coming to India!

  19. June 1, 2010 11:01 pm

    Indonesian Scout use the embryo of coconut/palm tree for the logo because it is so useful, from the fruit, part of the fruit, the bark tree, the young and old leaves, just simply everything. It represents the value of the member of the troop of it should be, being useful every where, any time.

  20. June 1, 2010 11:21 pm

    I never knew that coconuts were so useful, thanks for the share

  21. June 2, 2010 12:13 am

    so interisting. thanks for share

  22. June 2, 2010 12:15 am


  23. June 2, 2010 12:45 am

    thats why the Boyscout using the coconut for their simbol

  24. June 2, 2010 2:17 am

    I do not see anything new and informative about the uses of coconut described. We in India have been using coconut even for many more purpose.

    For much more detail information visit following website

  25. June 2, 2010 2:19 am

    In kerala, India life totally depends on coconut, one has to be there to believe the kind of things they make from coconut, from ropes to life-saving tube for swimmers !

  26. gloriadelia permalink
    June 2, 2010 2:55 am

    Thank you for posting the videos. This is a GREAT find. So glad they posted your blog on the WordPress homepage!

  27. June 2, 2010 3:45 am

    Having spent quite a lot of time in Asia, I was aware of the many uses of the coconut – your interesting and informative post has added some more!

  28. stephen melinger permalink
    June 2, 2010 4:15 am

    In Papillion he mentions how the coconut can sustain life by itself

    • stephen melinger permalink
      June 2, 2010 4:21 am

      Maybe for a short period like a month but eventually the body would suffer from a lack of vitamin c and protein. Still coconuts are healthy food with fiber and roughage and oils.

  29. stephen melinger permalink
    June 4, 2010 2:08 pm

    Spanish speaking immigrants in the United States have a special affinity for this fruit-plant. They sell coco(nut) ices and call each other coco peleado.

  30. June 7, 2010 11:47 pm

    I love coconut,!and this article gives me more information! Thanks for sharing!

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