Theobroma angustifolium

Common Names 

English: emerald cacao, monkey cocoa

Spanish: cacao de mico, cacao silvestre, cacao cimarrón, cacao de la India, cushta


Origin and Distribution 

Native to Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, and cultivated mostly in Mexico and Central America.  


Botanical Synonyms

Theobroma angustifolia. 


Theobroma angustifolium foliage
Emerald cacao foliage



Medium to large tree, ranging from 26-85 feet (8-26 m) tall. The leaves are simple and alternate, oblong lanceolate, 5.5-8.3 inches (14-21 cm) long and 2-2.6 inches (5-6.5 cm) wide, dark green with prominent veins.  Flowers are produced in the leaf axils on the branches, singly or in pairs, and have wide yellow petals with a red base. Fruits are 4-7 inches (10-18 cm) in length and 2.4-3.5 inches (6-9 cm) in diameter.  The elongated fruit has an irregular, bumpy hard shell with five indistinct ribs, and is green with a rusty brown coating which is easily removed by rubbing.  It contains between 20-25 seeds, surrounded by a cream colored, sour aromatic pulp.


  Theobroma angustifolium flower
The axillary flowers of emerald cacao


Propagation and Culture

Propagation is by seeds, airlayers, cuttings or grafts. Seeds germinate in 5-10 days, but lose viability quickly if they dry out. Seedlings should be grown under 50% shade. Emerald cacao may be cleft or patch grafted.

Emerald cacao 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, emerald cacao is found growing as a forest understory tree at lowland altitudes of 230-330 feet (70-100 m), but it grows well at Montoso Gardens at an elevation of 1500 feet (500 m).

Growth is rapid, and trees will fruit 2-3 years from planting. Fruits ripen in May and June in Puerto Rico.  There is no external indicator of ripeness, such as color change, but the fruits become aromatic when ripe.  Unharvested fruits dry up, staying attached to the tree for weeks until they finally fall.

Emerald cacao is self-compatible and sets fruit without cross pollination. 

Theobroma angustifolium fruit
The green fruit of emerald cacao with its rusty brown coating


Cultivars and Related Species

There are approximately 22 Theobroma species, and about 15 are utilized for their edible pulp or seeds. Theobroma cacao is the most important species. Theobroma grandiflorum (cupuassu), Theobroma gileri (mountain cocoa), T. bicolor (macambo) and T. subincanum (wild cocoa) are other species utilized for their aromatic, edible pulp and edible seeds.  Emerald cacao has been successfully hybridized with T. cacao, but the resulting hybrid seedlings were slow growing.

Theobroma angustifolium fruit with seeds
The interior of emerald cacao with the pulp and cleaned seeds



Emerald cacao is cultivated for the edible pulp and the seeds can be used to make chocolate.  The seeds contain less caffeine and theobromine than those of Theobroma cacao.


Nutritional composition per 100 g emerald cacao seed

Carbohydrate 14.2-55.5 g
Protein  5.6-10.5 g
Fat 17.5-46 g
Dietary fiber  11.3-21.7 g
Theobromine 30-40 mg
Caffeine 4-6 mg



The fruit and foliage of emerald cacao




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