Cocoa Tree
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Cocoa Tree
ntroduced Photo: Dinesh Valke
Common name: Cocoa Tree, Cacao, Chocolate • Tamil: கக்கவோ kakkavo • Malayalam: കൊക്കോ kokkoo
Botanical name: Theobroma cacao    Family: Sterculiaceae (Cacao family)

The cocoa tree is native to the Americas. In the wild, it grows to 50 feet tall as an "understory" tree in the shade of towering 200-foot-tall hardwoods and other trees. Cocoa trees require constant warmth and rainfall to thrive. They need to be shaded from the strong tropical sun and sheltered from the wind, and grow best in the shade of other trees. Cocoa Tree is a wide-branching evergreen tree, reaching 20-25 feet in height. The plant is "cauliflorous" with flowers (and later fruits) protruding directly from the woody branches and trunk.The fruit, or "pod", reaches to one foot long and 2-4 inches in diameter. Cacao beans contain the caffeine alkaloid Theobromine, which is a mild stimulant. Cacao is the source of chocolate, which is obtained by roasting and grinding the seeds. Chocolate is also said to contain the chemical Phenylethylamine, a natural amphetamine found in the human brain, which induces a feeling of euphoria.

Identification credit: Dinesh Valke Photographed at Veermata Jijabai Bhonsale Udyan, Mumbai.

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