An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Theobroma grandiflorum

Theobroma grandiflorum

The cupuassu (Theobroma grandiflorum (Willd. ex Spreng.) K.Schum.) is an arboreal species belonging to the Sterculiaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Dilleniidae
Malvales Order,
Sterculiaceae family,
Genus Theobroma,
Species T. grandiflorum.
The terms are synonyms:
– Bubroma grandiflorum Willd.;
– Bubroma grandiflorum Willd. ex Spreng.;
– Deltonea lactea Peckolt;
– Guazuma grandiflora G.Don;
– Theobroma macrantha Bernoulli;
– Theobroma silvestre Spruce ex K.Schum.;
– Theobroma speciosa Willd. ex Mart..

Etymology –
The term Theobroma comes from the Greek θεός theós god and from βρῶμα bróma food; therefore divine food.
The specific epithet grandiflorum comes from grandis grande and flos fiore: with large flowers.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Theobroma grandiflorum is a plant native to tropical rainforests, common, in its natural state, throughout the Amazon basin but is widely cultivated in the jungles of Colombia, Peru and northern Brazil, with the largest productions in Pará, followed by Amazonas, Rondônia and Acre.
Its natural habitat is that of rainforests, usually in areas that do not become inundated and is often the lower tier of evergreen rainforest trees.

Description –
Theobroma grandiflorum is an evergreen tree, with an elongated or pyramidal crown, which grows up to an average height between 5 and 15 meters.
The trunk can have a diameter of 25 – 30 cm and the bark is brown.
The leaves, which have an elongated ovoid shape, are 25-35 centimeters long and 6-10 centimeters wide, with 9 or 10 pairs of veins. The color of the leaves varies from pink to green as they mature, after which the plants begin to develop fruit.
The flowers are structurally complex and require pollination by biotic vectors. Most cupuaçu trees are self-incompatible, which can result in decreased pollination levels and, consequently, decreased fruit yield. Pollination can also be adversely affected by environmental conditions. Pollinators, which include chrysomelid weevils and stingless bees, are unable to fly among the flowers in heavy rain.
The fruits are elongated, brown and downy, 12 – 25 cm long and with a diameter of 10 – 12 cm, with the pulp occupying about one third of the internal space; they weigh 1-2 kg and covered by a 4-7 mm thick and hard exocarp. The fruit contains numerous large seeds surrounded by a very aromatic, succulent pulp with a slightly sour taste.
The pulp is white in color and has a fragrance described as a mixture of chocolate and pineapple.

Cultivation –
Theobroma grandiflorum is a tree highly valued locally for its edible fruit pulp. It is often harvested from the wild and is also grown in Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
It is a plant of warm, humid, lowland tropics that grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are between 20 and 30 °C, tolerating 16-40 °C.
It requires an average annual rainfall of between 2,000 and 8,000 mm, uniformly distributed throughout the year. It also grows in a position where shade is provided by taller trees.
From the pedological point of view, it prefers a relatively rich soil, with a pH between 5 and 6.5, tolerating between 4.5 and 8.5.
The plant is drought tolerant, unable to withstand even short dry seasons without the protection of dense shade and local humidity.
Newly planted young trees usually grow moderately well.
There is a seedless variety of this species.
Cupuaçu trees are often incorporated into agroforestry systems throughout the Amazon due to their high tolerance to barren soils, which are predominant in the Amazon region.
Cupuaçu is generally harvested from the ground once they have fallen naturally from the tree. It can be difficult to determine peak ripeness because there is no obvious external color change in the fruit. However, studies have shown that under the conditions of the western Colombian Amazon, fruits generally reach full maturity within 117 days of fruit set.
Propagation occurs by seed; this has a very short viability, requiring high humidity and optimum temperatures to remain viable. There is no dormancy, the seed often germinates while still inside the pod.
Therefore, it is advisable to sow it as soon as it is ripe, in a semi-shaded position in individual containers, to cover with about 15 mm of earth.
Germination rates of fresh seeds are usually high, with germination occurring in 20 – 40 days.
The young plants are usually ready to be planted out 5 – 6 months later.
In addition to seed, grafts and rooted cuttings are also used.
Pests and diseases include Moniliophthora perniciosa which is a fungus that causes “witch’s broom disease”; this fungus affects the entire tree and can result in significant loss of crops as well as tree death if left untreated. .
Therefore, when it occurs, or to reduce its occurrence, regular pruning is recommended to reduce the severity of this disease in plantations.
Finally, in the ecological field, this plant hosts the butterfly Macrosoma tipulata, Hedylidae, which, however, can become an important defoliator.

Customs and Traditions –
Theobroma grandiflorum is a tree that produces fruits, touted as possible superfruits, due to their phytochemicals, such as tannins, theograndin I and II, and flavonoids, including catechins, quercetin, kaempferol and isoscutllarein; it also contains theacrine (1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid) instead of the xanthines (caffeine, theobromine and theophylline) found in cocoa.
Commercial production of cupuaçu products includes dietary supplements, pills, beverages, smoothies, confectionery, and cosmetics.
The pulp of the cupuaçu fruit is consumed throughout Central and South America, especially in the northern states of Brazil, and is used to make ice cream, snack bars, and other products.
The fruit is often sold in local markets and is often in short supply as demand exceeds supply.
The pulp of the fruit can be eaten raw and is said to be delicious.
It has a creamy consistency, with an exotic and sweet taste and a pleasant scent.
It is also used to make fresh juices, ice creams, jams and pies.
The seeds are consumed as a substitute for chocolate. They have a high amount of fat and give good cocoa butter.
They are generally a rich source of oil (about 50%), starch (about 15%) and protein (about 15%); they also contain a volatile oil and the stimulant alkaloids caffeine and theobromine.
In medicinal use, the plant is classified as nourishing, stimulating and tonic.
The seeds are used in the treatment of abdominal pains.
The squeezed fruit is drunk to facilitate difficult deliveries.
While no specific reports of medicinal use have been seen for this plant, the seed is a source of cocoa powder and butter. These products have the following medicinal uses:
– cocoa powder and butter, which are obtained from the seed, are nutritious;
– cocoa powder is taken internally in the treatment of angina and hypertension;
– cocoa butter is an excellent emollient, being applied to the skin to soothe and soften it; it is traditionally used to treat chapped skin and burns, and is also rubbed on bruises.
Research has shown that it can help fight the bacteria responsible for boils and blood poisoning.
Among other uses, it should be remembered that an oil is obtained from the seed, known as cocoa butter, which is solid at room temperature. In addition to being used locally as a food and medicine, cocoa butter is important in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.
The wood is of medium texture, straight grain, moderately heavy and with moderate natural durability; however, it is little used, but is suitable for cabinet making and for the internal cladding of buildings.

Method of Preparation –
Theobroma grandiflorum is a plant whose commercial food products include pulp and powder.
From this plant, as well as for the use of its raw fruits, various aromas are extracted; these are derived from its phytochemicals, such as tannins, glycosides, theograndin, catechins, quercetin, kaempferol, and isoscutellarein. It also contains theacrine, caffeine, theobromine and theophylline found in cocoa, albeit with a much lower amount of caffeine.
Cupuaçu butter is a triglyceride composed of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, which give the butter a low melting point (about 30 °C) and a consistency of a soft solid, which gives, in its use in pastry, a similar consistency with white chocolate. The major fatty acid components of cupuaçu butter are stearic acid (38%), oleic acid (38%), palmitic acid (11%) and arachidic acid (7%).
The fruits are also marketed to prepare food supplements, pills, drinks, smoothies, confectionery and cosmetics.
It is also used to make fresh juices, ice creams, jams and pies.
The seeds are eaten as chocolate substitutes.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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