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The ambassador of Ecuador in Spain, Andrés Vallejo, today delivered to the director of the Royal Botanical Garden-CSIC of Madrid, María-Paz Martín, the first cocoa plant of the national ‘fine aroma’ variety (Theobroma cacao L.). The event took place in the Cavanilles chair, in the Villanueva Pavilion, in the Royal Botanical Garden (RJB), with the presence of the deputy vice president of Internationalization and Cooperation of the CSIC, Isabel Díaz. It has also had the participation of the director of Libraries, Archives and Museums of the Madrid City Council, Emilio del Río.

The director of the RJB-CSIC has expressed gratitude for this transfer, which increases the collection of live plants at the Santiago Castroviejo greenhouse and which, in her words, “represents an important example of the notable scientific and historical relations that have traditionally existed between Ecuador and Spain, and singularly with the Royal Botanical Garden, through botanical expeditions to describe the flora of this country in past centuries. A relationship that we currently maintain from the RJB with the Ecuadorian scientific community.”

For his part, the Ecuadorian ambassador has advanced that, with this donation of high scientific interest for both countries, “he begins a collaboration project with the Royal Botanical Garden, so that its visitors can learn about the fascinating history that this ancient fruit hides, through an interactive exhibition that will be held in June 2024.”

Through this exhibition you will be able to learn about the ancient use that pre-Hispanic cultures gave to this fruit, who used it as currency in exchange and as an offering in funerary rituals and other ceremonies.

“When the Swede Carlos Linnaeus, in the mid-18th century, called all species in Latin, he called humans homo sapiens, which means, ‘human being that thinks.’ He called the cocoa Theobroma cacao which means, ‘food of the gods’. Wonderful! ‘Joke’ in Greek is food and Theós is god. It is clear that Linnaeus liked cocoa and it is not surprising that he called it that because it really is a food suitable for gods,” Emilio del Río stated in his speech at the event.

Description of the donated plant

The origin of the plant, whose management has been carried out by the Embassy of Ecuador in Spain, comes from the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIAP) of Ecuador. These are two specimens of the ‘Aroma Pichilingue’ cocoa plant and another two of the ‘Fino Pichilingue’ variety. The specimens have a sensory profile that places them within the so-called fine and weapon cocoas, hence their respective names.

The specimens arrived at the end of last September at the Botanical Garden and after their acclimatization in the work greenhouse they will become part of the collection exhibited in the Santiago Castroviejo greenhouse.

As the Embassy has highlighted, the donation of this specimen of Ecuador’s national cocoa represents the dream come true of the scientists and botanists who tried to introduce this plant to the existing collections in the European Botanical Gardens, one of them Pedro Franco Dávila (Guayaquil , 1711-Madrid, 1786) a prestigious naturalist and scientist, who founded and directed the Royal Cabinet of Natural History of Spain, today part of the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC).