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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Strange Relatives: Theobroma cacao and Hibiscus

Who would have imagined that the cocao tree, Theobroma cacao (from which cocoa products like chocolate are derived) belongs to the same family as the hibiscus, Malvaceae. The small tree is native to the Central and Southern Americas and was cultivated and used by the native Mesoamerican civilizations for millennia for culinary, medicinal and ceremonial purposes. It was also used as currency much like pepper and salt was used as currency in various parts of the world.



On a recent visit to the University of Bristol Botanical Gardens in search of some other plants I found myself in the greenhouses looking a small tree whose leaves reminded me of the cocao tree. On closer inspection I was proven right when I saw the familiar miniature flowers.

Unfortunately it appeared that the tree was infected with Black pod disease. This is caused by Phytophthora a genus of seven species which can all cause this.


Additional Information:

Scientific Name: Theobroma cacao
Common names: Cacao tree, cocoa tree (English);  (French); (German); Violeta de barranca (Spanish);

Taxonomic hierarchy: 

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Viridaeplantae – Green plants
Infrakingdom: Streptophyta – Land plants
Division: Tracheophyta – Vascular plants
Subdivision: Spermatophytina – Spermatophytes (seed plants)
Infradivision: Angiospermae – Angiosperms (flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida
Superorder: Asteranae
Order: Lamiales
Family: Malvaceaeaceae
Genus: Theobroma – 
Species: Theobroma cacao– 

Scientific Name: Hibiscus
Common names: Cacao tree, cocoa tree (English);  (French); (German); Violeta de barranca (Spanish);

Taxonomic hierarchy: 

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Viridaeplantae – Green plants
Infrakingdom: Streptophyta – Land plants
Division: Tracheophyta – Vascular plants
Subdivision: Spermatophytina – Spermatophytes (seed plants)
Infradivision: Angiospermae – Angiosperms (flowering plants)
Class: Magnoliopsida
Superorder: Asteranae
Order: Lamiales
Family: Malvaceaeaceae
Genus: Theobroma – 
Species: Theobroma cacao

Notes: 
  • I am using the taxonomical classification system used by ITIS (Intergrated Taxonomic Information System). I have decided to use this system in order to avoid confusion as well as because it offers a comprehensive hierarchy from kingdom right through to subspecies whereas other sources only go as far as order or  provide the names of some of the higher taxonomical ranks but only indicate "unclassified" rather than providing the rank.
  • When and where possible I will endeavour to include alternatives classifications although  I may limit this to occasions where an opportunity arises to discuss the reason for the different classifications.
  • Taxonomical data used in this post was retrieved [June 15 2014], from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System on-line database, http://www.itis.gov.
References:


On-line sources:

  • Royal Horticultural Society: Entry for
  • Kew Royal Botanical Gardens: Entry for Theobroma cacao
  • Official Website of the: Bristol University Botanical Gardens 
  •  
  • World of Pinguicula: Entry for 
  • Missouri Botanical gardens: Entry for 
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System on-line database: Entry for 
  • Seedaholic: Entry for 
  •  

Additional resources:


Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters Blog by Vincent Albert Vermeulen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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My other blogs
· Flora and Fauna - Plants and Critters (on plants, animals as well as gardening, conservation and environmental matters): http://plantsandcritters.blogspot.com/
· The Blood of Souls (language, translation and etymology) : http://thebloodofsouls.blogspot.com/
· Whiskers on Kittens (Life with Kittens and Cats in general) : http://whiskersonkittens-vincent.blogspot.com/

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