Herrania
mariae (Sterculiaceae)
 

Common Names 

English:  mountain cocoa, alligator cocoa 

Spanish: cacao de monte, cacao caimán
Portuguese: cacao quadrado

 

Origin and Distribution 

Native to the Amazon Basin (Brazil, Colombia, Peru). Rarely cultivated.   

 

Botanical Synonyms

Abroma mariae and Theobroma mariae

 

Description

Medium sized tree, reaching about 30 feet (9 m) tall, often with multiple trunks. The leaves are palmately compound with six to nine leaflets.  Flowers are produced in groups in cushions on the trunk, globose and brown when in bud and when opening with five purple red petals with extending pinkish ligules 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) long. Fruits are 4-5.5 inches (10-14 cm) in length and 2.5 inches (6 cm) in diameter, with prominent subequal ribs, green when immature and yellow when ripe.  It contains between 30-40 angular seeds, surrounded by a whitish, sweet pulp. The cotyledons are white.

 

  Herrania mariae flowers

Mountain cocoa flower buds and open flowers with long exotic ligules

 

Propagation and Culture

Propagation is by seeds, airlayers, cuttings or grafts. Seedlings should be grown under 50% shade. Mountain cocoa is adapted to a humid tropical climate, and grows best in fertile, well drained soils. Trees grow best with light shade, but will grow well in full sun with adequate soil moisture. In its natural habitat, mountain cocoa is found growing as a rainforest understory tree.  Mountain cocoa is self-compatible and sets fruit without cross pollination.

 

Cultivars and Related Species

There are approximately 17 species of Herrania.

 

Uses

Mountain cocoa is used for the edible pulp and the seeds can be used to make chocolate.

 

Herrania mariae flower buds, open flower and fruits  A mountain cocoa tree with double trunks, loaded with flower buds, an open flower and ripe fruits

 

 

 

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