Q:

Where do cocoa trees grow?

A:

Quick Answer

Cocoa or cacao trees grow in the tropics and will only bear fruit in a narrow zone 20 degrees south and north of the equator. Even in these latitudes, they won't produce if the soil is poor, if the climate is too dry or if the temperature falls below 60 degrees.

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Full Answer

The cocoa tree usually doesn't grow taller than 49 feet. It's an evergreen tree with alternate leaves that are bright, glossy green and somewhat oblong in shape. The flowers of the cocoa tree are small and white or pink, and they grow directly on the tree's trunk or older branches. They are pollinated by midges that are in turn nourished by the fallen leaves beneath the tree.

The fruit is produced continuously until the tree is about 25 years old. The fruits are fairly large, ribbed and oval-shaped. They're orange and, when opened, have many seeds. When these seeds are ripe, they're gathered in trays and allowed to ferment until they're ready to be processed into cocoa or chocolate. The cocoa tree has been cultivated for centuries by native people of the Amazon and other areas in South America. Its scientific name is theobroma, which means "food of the gods."

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