05 January 2006

Description: Tahiti Red Dwarf

Click on the pictures to enlarge them !

From the book:
Coconut. A guide to traditional and improved varieties.
By R. Bourdeix, J.L. Konan and Y.P. N’Cho

Editions Diversiflora, Montpellier, France. Size: 21 x 27 cm - 104 pages
FRENCH VERSION: ISBN 2-9525408-0-2

Tahiti Red Dwarf

This Red Dwarf from Tahiti was introduced into Africa in the 1970s. However, in Tahiti it is known as the “Haari Papua”, literally “Papuan coconut”. Yet, Papua New Guinea is almost 6,000 km from Tahiti, at the other side of the Pacific Ocean ! For several centuries, Polynesian or Melanesian sailors travelled across the Pacific Ocean bringing plants with them. They considerably confused the issue of coconut variety origins.
In Côte d'Ivoire, this Dwarf is the frailest of all the coconut varieties. Eight years after planting, its slender stem does not exceed a metre in height on average. Its growth is slower than that of the Brazilian Green Dwarf. Its very supple fronds with long leaflets give it a particular silhouette, by which this variety can be distinguished from the Malayan Dwarf.
The bunches are clusters of small fruits suspended at the end of a long peduncle. While young, these oval fruits are a deep orange-red. When completely ripe, they have a small but clearly defined nipple. Inside the fruit, the nut is round; it sometimes becomes pointed at the distal end if the palm has suffered from drought. Ripe nuts contain little free water. A mature nut weighing an average of 200 g contains 70 g of meat and only 7 g of free water (on 6-7 years average). Seednut germination, which is rather slow for a Dwarf, does not reach a high rate. In Côte d'Ivoire, the Tahiti Red Dwarf starts flowering 4.3 years after planting, i.e. more than two years after the Malayan Yellow Dwarf. When mature, its production remains low and does not exceed 60 fruits per palm per year, i.e. 30 fruits fewer than the Yellow Dwarf. However, some of the nice palms encountered in the home gardens of the island of Aitutaki (Cook) are bearing more than 200 small fruits !
In Polynesia, TRD is mostly used for decoration in gardens and villages. On well watered volcanic soils, some palms bear numerous small fruits, which are left on the palms for a long time and only few of them are consumed. Perhaps the function of the Tahiti Red Dwarf resembles that of so-called “wedding” coconut palms in the Tuvalu islands. When there are too many guests and not enough good big drinking nuts, the guests are treated to these pretty little fruits available in large numbers.Although this Dwarf is quite widespread in certain Pacific islands (Cook, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa), it is not well represented in international collections. Only one accession of this variety, comprising 73 living palms in 2004, is preserved in the Ivorian collection at the “Marc Delorme” Research Centre. As it flowers late and produces small yields, researchers have shown little interest in the Tahiti Red Dwarf. Very little use has yet been made of it in the breeding programmes. In Côte d'Ivoire, it was crossed with four other varieties in 1993.