We recently added 9 new botanical illustrations of our favorite - 'chocolate'. Chocolate is made from the plant Theobroma cacao.
At the moment we include a number of digital images for the tropical tree Theobroma cacao in both low and high resolution. In the near future we will add vector versions of each image and also offer color prints. Common names include Cacao and Cocoa tree. The tree is evergreen and grows to about 8m tall. It is usually found in S. America - Brazil, Peru, Colombia, the Guyanas; and C. America - Belize, Guatemala, southern Mexico. The dried, fermented and roasted seeds of this plant, called cacao beans, are the source of cocoa, chocolate and cocoa butter. These are widely used in the confectionery industry to made chocolate confections, cakes, ice cream, drinks etc. The somewhat bitter flavor is usually moderated by adding sugar or other sweeteners. Theobroma cacao is an understorey plant of evergreen rainforest in the wet humid tropics. Although used mainly as a food, cacao does also have some therapeutic value. The seed contains a range of medically active constituents including xanthines, a fixed oil and endorphins. It is a bitter, stimulant, diuretic herb that stimulates the nervous system, lowers blood pressure and dilates the coronary arteries. Cacao powder and butter are nutritive, the latter also soothes and softens damaged skin.
A good tree for the humid shade garden or a Botanic collection. If you have a large conservatory you may also consider growing it. Theobroma cacao has a number of agroforestry uses. The tree is often interplanted with bananas, coconuts and rubber. The cacao tree provides a wide range of commodities for local peoples including fibre for cloth, thread and paper; wood for construction, making implements etc; coverings for their houses and many other items. The ash from pod husks contains potassium oxide, which can be extracted in the form of potassium hydroxide, a useful alkaline in the saponification process. The burnt husks can be pounded and made into a paste that has a soapy residue and can be used for washing clothes. Cocoa-bean fat from unfermented cocoa beans can be extracted and used in soap making. Cacao butter, obtained from the seeds, is used in skin creams, cosmetics and as a suppository base.