The WALA Plant Library

Synonyms for Cacao: cocoa, chocolate tree
Scientific Name: Theobroma cacao L.
Family: Malvaceae (Mallow Family)


Cocoa grows on trees. As tropical trees go, the natural supplier of our beloved chocolate is quite small. It grows to a height of five to ten metres in the shade of taller tropical trees and its trunk can reach a diameter of about 25 centimetres. Its dark-green shiny leaves can grow to 30 centimetres long and 10 to 15 centimetres across, and form a dense treetop. The small white or red blossoms do not grow at the tips of the boughs, as with other trees, but sprout directly from the trunk a phenomenon known to botanists as cauliflory. Ants and midges pollinate the blossoms. The cocoa fruit, which can reach 25 centimetres in length and is pointed at the farther end, is attached directly to the trunk of the tree. Embedded in the soft, sweetish pulp of the fruit are numerous almond-shaped seeds the cocoa beans.