Scientists Find Plants For ‘Climate-Proof’ Chocolate

Eddie Gonzales Jr. – – Scientists discovered three new species related to the chocolate plant, potentially leading to climate-resistant chocolate. The findings were published in Kew Bulletin.


Scientists Find Plants That May Create Climate-Resistant Chocolate

Theobroma globosum. A branchlet apex with a leaf showing linear stipules (general aspect); B cauliflorous inflorescence; C flower bud, highlighting the indumentum; D open flower; E petal; F staminodial unit, with a central staminode surrounded by two groups of fertile stamens, one with four and the other with two anthers; G gynoecium; H fruit. Drawn By Bobbi Angel. Credit: Kew Bulletin (2024). DOI: 10.1007/s12225-024-10171-x

The newly discovered species in South American rainforests are close relatives of the cocoa tree, which produces economically vital cocoa beans.

Scientists from University College Cork (UCC), the University of São Paulo and New York Botanical Garden report a significant finding, suggesting that much work remains in characterizing Earth’s biodiversity.

The research team, comprising Dr. James Richardson from the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences (BEES) at University College Cork and the Environmental Research Institute, has identified three novel species within the section Herrania. These newly discovered species have been classified as Theobroma globosum, Theobroma nervosum, and Theobroma schultesii.

Scientists Find Plants That May Create Climate-Resistant Chocolate

Distribution of Theobroma globosum, T. nervosum and T. schultesii in the Western Amazon basin. source

According to Dr. Richardson, the identification of these novel species was possible through the examination of specimens housed in herbaria. This discovery underscores the critical importance of preserving and maintaining natural history collections, as they potentially harbor numerous undiscovered species awaiting scientific recognition and classification.”

“That there were recently unknown species closely related to Theobroma cacao, which is of huge importance for the production of chocolate and other products, shows how much more work there is to be done to catalog the vast amount of unknown biodiversity across our planet,” he said.

Moreover, Dr. Richardson added that the team’s findings have the potential to contribute to the development of cacao trees with enhanced climate resilience. These advancements could lead to sustainable production of cacao products, including chocolate.

This research has major implications for the future of cacao and chocolate production.

Cacao prices have tripled recently due to drought-induced low production in West Africa, the main growing region. The discovery of new species expands genetic resources, potentially enabling the development of drought-tolerant or disease-resistant cacao trees. the researcher explained.

The team conducted detailed examinations of leaves, flowers, and fruits, and collaborated with multiple botanical institutions to achieve their discovery.


Written by Eddie Gonzales Jr. – Staff