cacao flower (theobroma cacao)

about a week ago, the cacao tree (theobroma cacao) in innsbruck’s botanical garden was in bloom.

the cool thing about cacao is that the flowers develop directly on the tree’s trunk and branches (it’s called cauliflory).

some chemical aspects:
the substance that causes cocoa (and chocolate, consequently) to produce a sense of well-being is called phenethylamine. according to wikipedia, the molecules are “similar to those of ecstasy” – they can cause the release of dopamine, which is “commonly associated with the brain’s “pleasure system”, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person”.

apart from phenethylamine, there’s also theobromine, caffeine and anandamide (similar to THC) to cheer you up and increase activity.
however, you’d have to eat about 20kg of chocolate to get enough of these chemicals for intoxication…

[view photos: cacao blossom]

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