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The un-branched trunk can reach 80-100 feet at maturity, topped by a crown of leaves each up to 20 feet in length. The tree is seldom straight, and often leans because of the wind, fruit load, and instability of the soil. When four or five years old the tree begins to produce male and female flowers, followed shortly thereafter by fruits (nuts). The nuts reach full size in about six months, but take almost a whole year to reach full maturity. A coconut tree usually can be expected to produce 25 nuts a year, with a maximum of 75 under ideal conditions. The tree's lifespan is approximately 80 to 90 years.
Small cay in Caribbean off Belize coast.
Within the past few decades a deadly disease of Coconut Palms has appeared and reached epidemic proportions. Called Lethal Yellows, it is a virus-like disease (actually a mycoplasma) that can kill a tree in three months. First discovered in Jamaica, it has spread throughout the Caribbean and beyond. Only the tall varieties of the species are susceptible, the dwarf varieties are immune. The tall varieties, however, are the most economically useful. No cure has been found as of yet, but progress is being made. If left unchecked, Lethal Yellows could have a devastating effect on the daily lives of millions of people in the tropics that depend on this bountiful tree for the essentials of life.