Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day Botany - League of Environmental Educators in Florida

Reprinted from the LEEF website: 

The cacao tree and rose bush are the botanical royalty of Valentine’s Day. With plant products in the limelight, Valentine’s provides you with the perfect opportunity to show students the important role our green friends play in our celebrations and traditions., a resource of the National Gardening Association, offers the following fun facts to share with your students this Valentine’s Day:

The Cacao or Chocolate Tree

- The scientific name of the cacao or chocolate tree is Theobroma cacao. Theobroma translates to "food of the gods." Perfect, right?

- The cacao is an evergreen tree native to tropical rainforests in Central and South America. Its flowers develop along the trunk and are pollinated by small flies. The fruit is a pod filled with bitter seeds (called cocoa beans) that are surrounded by a sweet seed coat. In order for the seeds to transform into the delicious treat we know, the seeds must be fermented by two different types of fungi. For more information about this process, check out Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month article.

- Commercially, 70% of cocoa comes from West Africa. It is also grown in Southeast Asia and Central and South America. The highest producing countries (listed in order) are The Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Brazil, and Ecuador. For in depth information including videos about the production and processing of cocoa, visit The Story of Chocolate from the Chocolate Council.

- Medical research has shown that consumption of chocolate may help reduced risk of heart disease. It has also been shown to increase feelings of well-being.

- The National Confectioners Association reports that more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day.

Roses and Cut Flowers

- During Victorian times, flowers were given special meanings and small bouquets would be given to friends and lovers in lieu of notes or letters. Visit the Language of Flowers website to discover the historical meanings associated with some common flowers.

- All flowers share the same purpose: to produce seeds. The flower characteristics we find attractive like a pleasant fragrance or eye-catching appearance are actually adaptations that evolved over time to attract pollinators to help transport pollen from the stamens to the pistils to fertilize the ovules and make seeds.

- 71% of the flowers sold in the United States are imported from other countries. Of the flowers that are grown in the United States, 77% originate in California. Check out the lesson Where did that Bouquet Come From? for more details.

-No other flower inspires more sentiment than the rose. A symbol of love, beauty and peace and designated as our national floral emblem, roses grace gardens and homes across the United States. With the oldest fossil records found in Colorado dating back to 35 million years ago, native rose species can be found around the globe in the Northern Hemisphere. Records suggested that human cultivation of roses began 5,000 years ago in China and quickly spread through out the civilized world. For curricular connections check out Reading, Writing, and Roses.

- estimated that more than 224 million roses were grown for Valentine’s day in 2012.