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The life cycle of the cocoa bean plant

Updated February 21, 2017

Cocoa beans grow on trees found in tropical regions near the equator. Cocoa trees need humidity, high temperatures and a good amount of rain to produce beans, according to the World Cocoa Foundation.

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Cocoa trees are grown from seeds. Each plant can reach 12 to 15 metres tall when fully mature, which can take up to three years.


Cocoa trees produce thousands of tiny white or pink flowers. These flowers have five petals and grow together in clusters. They are pollinated by tiny insects called midges. However, only 1 to 2 per cent of these blossoms will become cocoa seed pods. Seed pods will take about five or six months to reach full maturity, growing anywhere from 16 cm to 50 cm when fully grown. Trees that are less than five years old will not produce seed pods. Peak production occurs when the tree is 10 years old.

Time frame

Seed pods mature year round since the climate is mostly steady where cocoa trees grow. They are harvested when mature and are chopped down with a machete since pulling the pod off can damage the tree. If properly cared for, cocoa trees can live for 100 years.

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About the Author

David Harris is a writer living in Portland, Ore. He currently is the editor-in-chief of the online magazine Spectrum Culture. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College.

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