Hugh Harries - Tropical Tree Crops Agronomist


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2003 to date Research Associate (Herbarium), Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Profesor-Investigador Invitado, Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán; and Editor Coconut Time Line.

1998 to 2002 LATIN AMERICA based at CICY in Mexico; consulted or visited R&D activities in Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras & Jamaica. Currently moderating internet groups on coconut - lethal yellowing (CICLY), cultivars (ICCRA), pests, etc.

1998 SOUTH PACIFIC Regional Agricultural Programme Mission to review the EU funded project on the production and dissemination of improved coconut cultivars; Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga & Vanuatu [Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Western Samoa are also involved].

1998 INDONESIA Practical application of the endemic resistance of indigenous coconuts to phytoplasma diseases. Workshop on Lethal Diseases of Coconut caused by Phytoplasma and their importance in Southeast Asia. Balitka, Manado.

1998 TANZANIA The origin and dissemination of coconut: can DNA marker technology distinguish between wild, domestic and introgressed individuals in cultivated coconut populations? International Workshop & Laboratory Course on the Application of Biotechnology to Plant Breeding & Crop Protection in Coconut. MARI, Dar es Salaam..

1997 ENGLAND Economic Harvesting of Tropical Treecrops. In: Trees as Crops. Tropical Agriculture Association, Oxford.

1997 MEXICO Does clonal coconut material have a potential use in any agricultural system? International Symposium on Coconut Biotechnology, CICY, Merida

1997 TANZANIA Breeding phytoplasma disease resistant coconut: alternative field exposure trial strategies. International Cashew & Coconut Conference, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, February 1997.

1993 ENGLAND: Independent Consultant in Mexico, Fiji, Papua New Guinea & Tanzania.


Consultant to IBPGR (IPGRI) to establish COGENT (Coconut Genetic Resources Network) on secondment from GTZ

1990-1993 TANZANIA:

GTZ Plant Breeder, National Coconut Development Programme (NCDP)

1988-90 ENGLAND:

Independent Consultant in Costa Rica, Indonesia, Mexico, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania & Thailand.

1978-82 THAILAND:

Technical Cooperation Officer & Team Leader, ODA Coconut Development Project.

1969-78 JAMAICA:

Botanist/Plant Breeder, Coconut Industry Board & Convenor, FAO Coconut Breeders' Consultative Committee.


FAO Agricultural Officer, Coconut Industry Board.

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Harries, H.C. (1978)

Botanical Review 44 (3), 265-319

The evolution, dissemination and classification of the coconut can be considered as a logical sequence. First came the natural evolution and dissemination by floating of a variety with large, long, angular, thick-husked and slow-germinating fruit. It had a theoretical range anywhere between the east coast of Africa and the west coast of America, wherever currents were favourable. From this type, selection under cultivation produced a spherical-fruited variety, not necessarily larger but with increased endosperm, reduced husk thickness, earlier germination and disease resistance. Man came to rely on this coconut for food, drink, shelter and fuel, the basic necessities of life. Although not suited for dissemination by floating, it was taken long distances by boat, reaching initially as far west as southern India and Sri Lanka and as far east as the Samoan Islands. Subsequently, hybridisation and introgression of the two contrasting forms gave the wide range of varieties and pan-tropical distribution seen today. A classification system in which the varieties are identified by the degree of introgression (based in the first place on fruit component analysis) is described. This in turn allows a suggestion to be made concerning the location of the much-debated centre of origin for Cocos nucifera.


Harries, H.C. (1990)

pp. 351-357. In: P. Baas, K. Kalkman & R. Geesink (eds) The Plant Diversity of Malesia. Dordrecht, Kluwer

At one time it was thought that the ancestors of modern Cocos nucifera reached the Western Pacific area by long distance dispersal along a southern route from America, with a fossil (Cocos zeylandica) in New Zealand as a remnant of such a pathway. The concept of a southern route is an unnecessary complication. An origin for the whole Cocoeae tribe in western Gondwanaland seems most compatible with the present day distribution. The tribe probably differentiated shortly before the break up of that super-continent. Members radiated and became very diverse in the Americas; some rafted on the African and Madagascar Plates, where they survive to the present day; others rafted on the Indian plate, where they are now extinct. With its ability to float the coconut became independent of plate tectonics for its dispersal. The wild type evolved by floating between the volcanic islands and atolls where these fringed the continental plates and not on the lands masses at all. Islands in the Tethys Sea could have been the ancestral home of the coconut, from where it dispersed by floating to other islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans but not into the Atlantic. It would also have floated to continental coastlines but would have stood less chance of surviving competition from other plants or predation by animals until domesticated by early man. The continental coast and larger islands of Malesia was the site for such domestication long before both wild and domestic types were taken into agricultural cultivation.


Harries, H.C. (1992)

Principes 36 (3) 155-162

The conditions under which coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) evolved can be quite precisely specified. Those conditions still exist today and the coconut palm can be found growing in its original habitat where it will continue to thrive, with or without human intervention. The coconut can be considered as perhaps the most successful member of the world's oldest and most durable ecosystem. Yet the major component of that ecosystem, the coral reef, is constantly changing its form. As a result the precise location of a centre of origin for the coconut will probably never be known.


Harries, H.C. (1981)

Annals of Botany 48, 873-883.

The time taken from reaping coconut seednuts to the appearance of the sprout through the husk distinguishes late germinating Niu kafa types from early germinating Niu vai types. Results from previously unrelated germination studies, carried out independently in Jamaica, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Ivory Coast, show that the common tall varieties in those countries, and also in Benin and Mozambique, are Niu kafa types, whilst in peninsular Malaysia and on the Pacific coast of Panama the common tall varieties are Niu vai types. These findings agree with others based on different aspects of the palm and its ecology. The relationship between germination and the degree of water absorption, particularly sea water, at the time the ripe fruit falls from the palm may account for the genetic stability of the wild Niu kafa type despite island conditions which would appear to favour genetic drift.


Harries, H.C. (1981)

Oléagineux 36, 63-72

Coconut varieties from different origins are identified using data on fruit composition, seednut germination, palm habit, floral biology, precocity and production. Observation on the shape and colour of the fruit and on pest and disease incidence are also considered. Varietal characteristics come from two contrasting ancestral types, the Niu kafa which evolved naturally by floating and the Niu vai which was selected for drinking. Where cult-ivation brings the two forms together a wide range of intermediate sorts arise by introgression (introgressive hybridization). Individual palms in introgressed populations show characteristics of one or both ancestral types or some intermediate condition. The apparent diversity, modified by geographical isolation, genetic drift and further selection, gives rise to a multitude of named varieties and forms which have defied previous attempts at classification. The method of identification is demonstrated with data from the IRHO Marc Delorme Research Station, Port Bouêt (Ivory Coast), that were presented in a previous issue of Oléagineux. The accessions from Ivory Coast, Benin and Mozambique are Niu kafa types, the one from West Malaysia is a Niu vai type and the one from Tahiti clearly shows the effects of introgression. These findings are relevant to the to the identification of varieties in each of the four major coconut producing regions of the world - the Pacific islands, south east Asia, the coasts and islands of the Indian Ocean and the Western Hemisphere.