- Scientific name: Cola nitida
- Family: Malvaceae (kapok, mallow, cola, hibiscus)
Tree up to 20m tall. Leaves shiny, up to 30cm long. Flowers pale yellow outside, deep red lines running along inside of petals. Fruits leathery to woody, deep green to brown. Pollinated by flies.
The cola nut (although not botanically speaking a nut) is culturally important in its native West Africa:
- Divorce has been granted for the payment of one cola nut and cheating partners can make up for their ‘mistakes’ with a payment in cola.
- A cola tree may be planted for a newborn who will be its lifelong owner; a tree may also planted at the grave of a chief.
- A Nigerian fable tells how death itself can be warded off by a feast of cola nuts.
- Cola nut ceremonies perform the equivalent of lawyers meetings, business lunches, greeting cards, juries, ambassadors and legal contracts in the west.
Where it grows
Cola is native to tropical West Africa. This lowland species prefers well-drained soils in tropical climates.
The caffeine-rich seeds are widely chewed across Africa as a stimulant to dispel sleep, thirst and hunger.
- Coca-Cola website: history pages
- Guide to cultural use of cola by Igbo people of Nigeria
- West African Adinkra symbol for sack of cola nuts