Real coconuts are either green or yellow (there may be other variants I'm unaware of) not brown. Why are they always colored brown in cartoons?

Growing up in a tropical country with coconut trees an everyday sight, this has bothered me from a young age. The sight of brown coconuts has always been visually jarring to me, to the extent that it reduces the enjoyment of otherwise good/funny cartoons.

I know the first cartoons were intended for a Western audience who would not have been aware of the inaccuracy.

  • 1
    I live in South Africa, and over here we have only got brown hairy coconuts. Find attached image below: !enter image description here
    – user22623
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 6:46
  • For much the same reason that frog say ribbit.
    – user7812
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 9:32
  • A google search for "coconut" results in many more brown coconuts than green ones.
    – miva2
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 23:07

2 Answers 2


Buy a coconut in the supermarket. What's the color?

The "nut" is most likely brown and hairy. Sure, it's not like they appear when still on the trees, but who knows?

IMO it's all about being recognizable (and also knowledge) to some extent.

In a similar way, if you see Bananas in a cartoon, they're yellow. Tomatoes are red, apples are typically red, etc. even though these things will most likely have a different color or more variation while still being on a plant.

I think you could even go a bit further and compare this a bit to space fights in fiction: Explosions, sounds, pew-pew-pew, etc. yet you shouldn't hear anything. It's about what people know and recognize, it's not about what's realistic.


If you want to, you could even consider brown coconuts to be stereotypical coconuts! :) As a different example, what's been the last time you saw some Bavarian in a (non-serious) cartoon (e.g. looney toons)? Chances are high, he had some traditional costume on, at least some lederhosen. I'm from Bavaria, and I've never worn a lederhosen (since being like 3 or 4 years old; didn't have the choice!). Yet as some caricature I'd most likely have one on me - not to forget a Mass of beer in my hands.

  • Well, growing up in a tropical country, I know. That's why it bothers me so much. I see your point about the supermarket (though here we still get the green ones), but I don't think bananas, tomatoes, and apples can be compared. In those cases, the fruit pretty much look as they do on the tree.
    – jcm
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 6:26
  • They're typically edge cases, yes. :) But from my experience it's very seldom to see yellow or green apples for example.
    – Mario
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 6:48

Coconuts brown as they mature, so it's not always an inaccurate depiction.

Cartoons rely on a certain visual "shorthand" for many things that fly in the face of common knowledge, but are subconsciously accepted as part of the cartoon world or the larger entertainment or cultural zeitgeist. Most of us are aware that cars can't possibly operate like they do in cartoons, even without ever having seen or been in a car; likewise, while the yellow/green is obscure trivia to some, most of us can generally guess that coconuts are not perfectly spherical, bang-on-head openable bowling balls that produce a xylophonic bonk in the process. Yet we accept these depictions for their simple, distinct characterization. The purpose of such characterization is usually to set up a "gag" that would be diluted by excess realism or veer terribly off-point with footnotes and explication.

Early black and white cartoons without sound effects may have used solid blacks to depict coconuts over other melons or simple round objects. Brown may have been a logistical choice when going to color, with green possibly reserved for melons, etc.

  • Not sure I've ever seen a bunch of brown coconuts on a tree (and I pretty much see coconut trees everyday), and I've definitely never seen brown, hairy ones on a tree. I get your point about the shorthand though.
    – jcm
    Commented May 1, 2014 at 6:35

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