Localities documented in Tropicos sources
Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
- Molina Rosito, A. 1975. Enumeración de las plantas de Honduras. Ceiba 19(1): 1–118. http://www.tropicos.org/Reference/866
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Cola is a genus of trees native to the tropical rainforests of Africa, classified in the family Malvaceae, subfamily Sterculioideae (or treated in the separate family Sterculiaceae). Species in this genus are sometimes referred to as Kola tree or Kola nut for the caffeine-containing fruit produced by the trees that is often used as a flavoring ingredient in beverages. The genus is related to the South American genus Theobroma, or cocoa. They are evergreen trees, growing up to 20 m tall (about 60 feet), with glossy ovoid leaves up to 30 cm long and star shaped fruit.
Origin and distribution 
Cola is a genus of the family Malvaceae with approximately 100 to 125 species occurring in the evergreen lowland and montane forest of continental (primarily tropical) Africa. Cola nuts are seed pods of the plant harvested primarily from the species Cola nitida and Cola acuminata. Outside mainland Africa, some species are cultivated for their nuts in Brazil, Jamaica and elsewhere in the humid tropics.
- Cola acuminata (P.Beauv.) Schott & Endl.
- Cola alba A.Chev.
- Cola altissima Engl.
- Cola angustifolia K.Schum.
- Cola anomala K.Schum.
- Cola argentea Mast.
- Cola attiensis Aubrév. & Pellegr.
- Cola ballayi Cornu ex Heckel
- Cola bilenguensis Pellegr.
- Cola bipindensis Engl.
- Cola bodardii Pellegr.
- Cola boxiana Brenan & Keay
- Cola brevipes K.Schum.
- Cola bruneelii De Wild.
- Cola buesgenii Engl.
- Cola buntingii Baker f.
- Cola cabindensis Exell
- Cola caricifolia (G.Don) K.Schum.
- Cola cauliflora Mast.
- Cola cecidiifolia Cheek
- Cola chlamydantha K.Schum.
- Cola chlorantha F.White
- Cola clavata Mast.
- Cola coccinea Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola congolana De Wild. & T.Durand
- Cola cordifolia (Cav.) R.Br.
- Cola crispiflora K.Schum.
- Cola digitata Mast.
- Cola discoglypremnophylla Brenan & A.P.D.Jones
- Cola diversifolia De Wild. & T.Durand
- Cola duparquetiana Baill.
- Cola edeensis Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola fibrillosa Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola ficifolia Mast.
- Cola flaviflora Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola flavovelutina K.Schum.
- Cola gabonensis Mast.
- Cola gigantea A.Chev.
- Cola gigas Baker f.
- Cola gilgiana Engl.
- Cola gilletii De Wild.
- Cola glabra Brenan & Keay
- Cola glaucoviridis Pellegr.
- Cola greenwayi Brenan
- Cola griseiflora De Wild.
- Cola heterophylla (P.Beauv.) Schott & Endl.
- Cola hispida Brenan & Keay
- Cola hypochrysea K.Schum.
- Cola idoumensis Pellegr.
- Cola kimbozensis Cheek
- Cola lasiantha Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola lateritia K.Schum.
- Cola laurifolia Mast.
- Cola le-testui Pellegr.
- Cola lepidota K.Schum.
- Cola letouzeyana Nkongmeneck
- Cola liberica Jongkind
- Cola lissachensis Pellegr.
- Cola lizae N.Hallé
- Cola lomensis Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola lorougnonis Aké Assi
- Cola louisii Germ.
- Cola lukei Cheek
- Cola macrantha K.Schum.
- Cola mahoundensis Pellegr.
- Cola marsupium K.Schum.
- Cola mayimbensis Pellegr.
- Cola mayumbensis Exell
- Cola megalophylla Brenan & Keay
- Cola metallica Cheek
- Cola millenii K.Schum.
- Cola minor Brenan
- Cola mixta A.Chev.
- Cola mossambicensis Wild
- Cola mosserayana Germ.
- Cola nana Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola natalensis Oliv.
- Cola ndongensis Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola nigerica Brenan & Keay
- Cola nitida (Vent.) Schott & Endl.
- Cola noldeae Exell & Mendonça
- Cola obtusa Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola octoloboides Brenan
- Cola pachycarpa K.Schum.
- Cola pallida A.Chev.
- Cola philipi-jonesii Brenan & Keay
- Cola pierlotii Germ.
- Cola porphyrantha Brenan
- Cola praeacuta Brenan & Keay
- Cola pseudoclavata Cheek
- Cola pulcherrima Engl.
- Cola quentinii Cheek
- Cola quintasii Engl.
- Cola reticulata A.Chev.
- Cola ricinifolia Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola rondoensis Cheek
- Cola rostrata K.Schum.
- Cola ruawaensis Cheek
- Cola rubra A.Chev.
- Cola scheffleri K.Schum.
- Cola sciaphila Louis ex Germ.
- Cola selengana Germ.
- Cola semecarpophylla K.Schum.
- Cola simiarum Sprague ex Brenan & Keay
- Cola sphaerocarpa A.Chev.
- Cola sphaerosperma Heckel
- Cola stelechantha Brenan
- Cola subglaucescens Engl.
- Cola suboppositifolia Cheek
- Cola sulcata Engl.
- Cola tessmannii Engl. & K.Krause
- Cola triloba (R.Br.) K.Schum.
- Cola tsandensis Pellegr.
- Cola uloloma Brenan
- Cola umbratilis Brenan & Keay
- Cola urceolata K.Schum.
- Cola usambarensis Engl.
- Cola vandersmisseniana Germ.
- Cola verticillata (Thonn.) Stapf ex A.Chev.
- Cola welwitschii Exell & Mendonça ex R.Germ.
- Cola winkleri Engl.
The kola nut is the fruit of the kola tree, a genus (Cola) of trees native to the tropical rainforests of Africa. The caffeine-containing fruit of the tree is sometimes used as a flavoring ingredient in beverages.
Kola nut is a caffeine-containing nut of evergreen trees of the genus Cola, primarily the species Cola acuminata and Cola nitida. Cola acuminata is an evergreen tree of about 20 meters in height, and has long and ovoid leaves pointed at both the ends that have a leathery texture. The trees have yellow flowers with purple spots, and star-shaped fruit. Inside the fruit, about a dozen round or square seeds can be found in a white seed shell. The nut’s aroma is sweet and rose-like. The first taste is bitter, but sweetens upon chewing. The nut can be boiled to extract the cola. This tree reaches 25 meters in height and is propagated through seeds. C. nitida and C. acuminata can easily be interchanged with other Cola species.
The kola nut has a bitter flavor and contains caffeine. It is chewed in many West African cultures, individually or in a group setting. It is often used ceremonially, presented to tribal chiefs or presented to guests. It is preferred among African Muslims, who are forbidden to drink alcohol. Chewing kola nut can ease hunger pangs. Kola nuts are often used to treat whooping cough and asthma. The caffeine present acts as a bronchodilator, expanding the bronchial air passages. Frequent chewing of the kola nut can also lead to stained teeth. Among the urban youth of West Africa, kola nut is becoming less popular.
Kola nuts are perhaps best known to Western culture as a flavouring ingredient and one of the sources of caffeine in cola and other similarly flavoured beverages, although the use of kola (or kola flavoring) in commercial cola drinks has become uncommon. However, recently the use of Kola nut has been reintroduced, most notably in Whole Foods Market 365 Cola as part of their trend to use natural rather than artificial ingredients. It is also used in Barr's Red Kola, Red Bull's new Simply Cola, Harboe Original Taste Cola, Foxon Park Kola, Blue Sky Organic Cola, Sprecher's Puma Kola, Virgil's Real Cola, Hansen's Natural Original Cola, and Cricket Cola, and formerly in Royal Crown Premium. In Barbados the Kola nut is made into a sweet drink known as Clayton's Kola Tonic.
The use of the kola nut, like the coffee berry and tea leaf, appears to have ancient origins. It is chewed in many West African cultures, individually or in a social setting, to restore vitality and ease hunger pangs. Kola nuts are an important part of the traditional spiritual practice of culture and religion in West Africa, particularly Nigeria. Kola nuts are used as a religious object and sacred offering during prayers, ancestor veneration, and significant life events, such as naming ceremonies, weddings, and funerals. They are also used in a traditional divination system called Obi divination. For this use, only kola nuts that are divided into four lobes are suitable. The kola nuts are cast upon a special wooden board and the resulting patterns are read by a trained diviner. This ancient practice is currently enjoying increased growth within the United States and Caribbean.
In the 1800s, a pharmacist in Georgia, John Pemberton, took extracts of kola and coca and mixed them with sugar, other ingredients, and carbonated water to invent the first cola soft drink. His accountant tasted it and called it "Coca Cola." Cocaine (not the other extracts from the Peruvian coca leaf) was prohibited from soft drinks in the U.S. after 1904, but Coca-Cola still uses kola in its original recipe..
Originally a tree of tropical rainforest, it needs a hot humid climate but can withstand a dry season on sites with a high ground water level. It may be cultivated in drier areas where ground water is available. C. nitida is a shade bearer but develops a better spreading crown which yields more fruits in open places. Though it is a lowland forest tree it has been found at altitudes over 300 m on deep rich soils under heavy and evenly distributed rainfall.
Regular weeding is a must and this can either be done manually or by using herbicides. Some irrigation can be provided to the plants, but it is important to remove the water through an effective drainage system as excess water may prove to be detrimental for the growth of the plant. When not grown in adequate shade, the kola nut plant responds well to fertilizers. Usually, the plants need to be provided with windbreaks to protect them from strong gales.
Harvesting and storage
Kola nuts can be harvested by hand, by plucking it at the tree branch. Like in western countries and other countries of the world, it has been harvested by the use of harvesters. When kept in a cold and dry place, Kola nut can be stored for a long time.
Pests and diseases
The nuts are subject to attack by the Kola weevil Balanogastris cola. The larvae of the moth Characoma strictigrapta that also attacks cacao bore into the nuts. Traders sometimes apply an extract of the bark Rauvolfia vomitoria or the pulverised fruits of Xylopia and Capsicum to counteract the attack on nursery plants. The cacao pests Sahlbergella spp. have been found also on C. nitida as an alternative host plant. While seeds are liable to worm attack, the wood is subject to borer attack.
- caffeine (2–3.5%)
- theobromine (1.0–2.5%)
- Jarvis, Gail (May 21, 2002). The Rise and Fall of Cocaine Cola. Retrieved on 2006-08-19.
- Kim, Katherine, (2001). Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine
- Mariama Bâ, "So Long a Letter"
- ^ Burdock, George A.; Carabin, Ioana G.; Crincoli, Christine M. (August 2009). "Food and Chemical Toxicology". Safety assessment of kola nut extract as a food ingredient (Elsevier) 47 (8): 1725-1732. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2009.04.019.
- ^ Igbo insight guide to Enugu and Igboland's Culture and Language, igboguide.org Kola Nut
- ^ Catherine Meyers. "How Natural Is Your Cola?". Science NOW. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
- ^ Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Cola All Natural Soda
- ^ The wise gardener
- ^ FAMA Aina Adewale-Somadhi, Chief: (2004), "Practioner's Handbook for the Ifa Professional", Ile Orunmila Communications, pg 1
- ^ Epega, Afolabi A.: (2003), "Obi Divination", Athelia Henrietta Press, pgs 1-2
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