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Theobroma cacao


Theobroma cacao L.

Family Name: Malvaceae
Common Name: Cocoa, Cacao, Chocolate Nut Tree, 可可


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Tree (Small (6m-15m))
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic


Native Distribution Mexico, Central America, northern South America
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Primary Rainforest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Non-native (Horticultural / Cultivated Only)

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form A small tree usually grows to 4-8 m tall.
Foliage The alternately arranged leaves are large, ovate-oblong to elliptic, measuring 12-60 cm long and 4-20 cm wide. The leaf tip is pointed while the leaf base is heart-shaped or rounded. Both the main vein and the side veins are very prominent. Young flushes are reddish-pink in color, turning to dark green when mature.
Flowers Flowers are small and yellowish-white or pink in color, borne on the trunk and branches. 
Fruit The fruit is a pod, 10-32 cm long, spherical to oblong, with 5 to 10 longitudinal ridges. Unripe fruits are white or green, turning to yellow, orange, red or purple when mature, with 20-60 seeds per fruit. Cocoa seeds are ovoid to elliptic, measuring 2-4 cm long and 1.2-2 cm wide.
Habitat Lowland tropical forests up to 400 m altitude.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Fruits, Edible Seeds
Food (Herb or Spice): The seeds are dried and fermented in the sun to make cocoa beans. The cocoa beans then go through further processing including roasting, crushing, grinding and pressing to make chocolate and cocoa butter. Cocoa butter has many applications in food, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. (Fruit or Vegetable): The fruit pulp surrounding the seeds can be consumed raw or processed into desserts.
Others: The shells of cocoa beans are crushed and used as mulching materials.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Fruits
Landscape Uses Parks & Gardens, Riverine
Thematic Landscaping Economic Garden

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Ant, Beetle, Fly, Thrip, Wasp))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Biotic (Fauna) (Vertebrates (Other Mammal), Vertebrates (Human))

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade
Water Preference Moderate Water, Lots of Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast to Moderate
Rootzone Tolerance Moist Soils, Waterlogged Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Fertile Loamy Soils, Acidic (low pH) Soils
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Pruning Pruning is require to maintain the desired shape.
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting, Grafting, Air-Layering
Seed / Spore Germination Duration 5 days to 10 days


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Glossy / Shiny, Leathery
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Pink
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Ovate, Elliptical)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.0 (Tree - Intermediate Canopy)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Branch Angle (wrt vertical) Acute
Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody
Bark Colour(s) Brownish
Mature Bark Texture Smooth

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) White, Cream / Off-White, Pink
Flower Grouping Solitary, Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Cauliflorous
Flowering Period Free-Flowering
Flower Size 1 cm x 2 cm

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Green, Orange, Purple, Red, Yellow / Golden
Seed Description 2-4 cm long, ovoid or elliptic, have either white or purple cotyledons.
Seed Quantity Per Fruit Numerous (>20)

Image Repository



Master ID 1895
Species ID 5241
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 28 June 2023.