The evergreen cacao tree grows 15 to 25 feet primarily between latitudes 10 deg N to 10 deg S, usually below 1,000 feet in altitude, and in areas with a monthly average rainfall of about 4 inches. Various cultivars, propagated by seed, are grown. The oblong or oval fruit (fig. 58), commonly called a pod, is 4 to 12 inches long, and green when immature, but may be yellow, red, purple, or green when ripe. It contains afrom 20 to 60 reddish-brown beans 3/4 to 1/2 by 1/2 to 1 inch in size, usually arranged in five rows. Pods are produced throughout the year, but the main harvest usually begins at the end of the wet season and may extend for 3 months. From 7 to 14 pods will produce a pound of dry beans. Yeilds range from 200 to 3,000 pounds dry beans per acre, but 600 lb/acre is considdered a good yield (Purseglove 1968).
The cacao flowers arise in groups directly from old wood of the main stem or older branches at points which were originally leaf axils (fig. 60). Each flower has five prominent pink sepals, five smaller yellowish petals, each of which forms a pouch, an outer whorl of five staminodes, and an inner whorl of five double stamens, each stamen bearing up to four anthers. The staminodes are about as tall to twice as tall as the upright style and form a "fence" around the style. The stamens are curled so that the anthers develop inside the petal pouches. The ovary consists of five united carpels each having four to 12 locules, and one style that has several linear stigmatic lobes (van Hall 1932). According to Cheeseman (1932) and Urquhart (1961), the flower produces no nectar and has no discernible scent. However, Stejskal (1969) stated that there are two types of microscopic nectaries, ( 1 ) the cylindrical multicellular ones, 60 to 450 microns in size, on the pedicels, sepals, and ovaries, and (2) the conical unicellar ones 20 to 25 microns in size, located on the "guide lines" of the petals and on the staminodia. He showed that they secrete nectar, which has an odor that attracts male mosquitoes and lepidopterous insects.
The flower opens about dawn, and the anthers dehisce just before sunrise. The stigma is usually pollinated 2 to 3 hours later but is receptive from sunrise to sunset of the day of opening (Cheeseman 1932). The stigma is receptive to pollen along its whole length, and not merely at the apex as in most flowers. If the flower is not pollinated, it usually sheds the following day (Sumner 1962). Pollination before noon is best (Chats 1953).
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