A long-standing debate about the existence of coconut in Panama in pre-Columbian times has recently been revived and its presence, as well as the ability of the first Spanish explorers to correctly identify coconut, has been questioned. Baudouin et al. consult original sources and confirm that the Spanish chronicler Oviedo (1478–1557) effectively distinguished coconuts from other similar palm fruits based on their sizes. A drawing attributed to Oviedo that has been argued as being an inaccurate depiction of coconut is shown actually to be a representation of a cluster of fruits of a native Bactris, with the mis-identification only occurring after Oviedo’s death. In addition, Mártir de Anglería (1457–1526) is shown to have described tidal seed dispersion of coconut at a site in Panama.
Baudouin et al. present new findings regarding the long-standing debate about the existence of coconut in Panama in pre-Columbian times.