Monday, October 26, 2020

Minimal Cacao Cold Damage

You've probably heard that cacao can't really survive cold very well. While that's probably true to some extent, the numbers I keep seeing seem to be more of an overall guideline for yearly temperatures.  The range typically says 50-90 degrees.  Lower than 50 is said to damage the trees while above 90 is said to prevent growth.

We went out of town and left several cacao trees on the patio thinking it wouldn't get very cold while we were gone.  I was surprised to see the weather app say it got to 45 one evening and there was no way I was going to get back to it.  Fortunately the plants were fine.  One new leaf on one of the trees did have some damage but all of the rest of the trees and leaves seemed to have no adverse effects.  I come to the conclusion that I need a reliable gauge to see when I need to worry.  If the trees really can do just fine in 40 degree weather (just without new growth coming in) then that is something I would really like to know.

After doing some research, it seems like cacao trees can indeed survive much colder temperatures.  I wouldn't make it a habit but even where it grows naturally, southern Mexico, it can drop even into the thirties occasionally.  This is by far not the normal temperature but it just shows that even temperatures below 40 won't necessarily kill your cacao tree.  I, of course, want the trees to grow well so I think I'll just keep my trees inside.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Cacao Tree Survival

In a presentation by Ben Rasmussen over at Potomic Chocolate, he gave a nice overview of what they do there and what got him into chocolate.  It's a story you will probably hear from most every craft chocolate maker if you talk to them long enough.  Craft chocolate is a passionate business and you don't stay in it simply for the money.

One of the things he brought out was his tree.  You could see it in the background of the video and it was a nice looking tree.  At one point though it had lost all of its leaves and was merely a twig sticking out of the ground.  Someone said that it wasn't necessarily lost though and to just keep it watered.  It may well grow back, and it did.

That's the same thing I have done with some of my trees.  They've had a rough beginning to some of them and, as you can see on this little guy, if you keep them watered they can indeed grow back.  He's even better looking now but this picture really shows how resilient a cacao tree can be.  Of course not all of the trees had this outcome.  Some of them really did die, shrivel up, fall over, and sink into a swamp.  We won't talk about those any further though.  This little guy is the bright spot in the whole tree growing process.  Of course he doesn't come close to Claude (my wife decided the largest and most healthy of the trees needed a name) who is now nearly as tall as I am.  Some day though, with proper care, he will be just as big.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Lacewing Eggs

Little hanging things with what seem to be eggs on the end.  It reminded me of a spider nest I saw once on a show in a rainforest.  These however are lacewing eggs.  They are not some mysterious spider that can eat your face.  The spider really wasn't a face eater either but the irrational fears people have are just that, irrational.

Lacewings are actually beneficial bugs and I'm so going to leave these guys alone so they can take care of other bugs that I really don't want on the porch.

Speaking of the porch, it will soon be the temporary home of a dozen cacao trees in pots until I can find a more permanent solution to where they will live.

Many of them are now doing much better than expected.  They've been hanging out in very low light and a few of them lost most if not all of their leaves.  This isn't necessarily a problem though.  Apparently cacao trees can do this and still come back months later and be just fine.  They can adapt much more than some people give them credit for.  The big tree has been wrapped up with plastic wrap and is ready for the move.  In a few days we will know the results and keep at it.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Dallas Chocolate Festival


The Dallas Chocolate Festival is here again.  This is the 11th annual event and also marks the second year of growth for my largest cacao tree, currently topping five feet high.

The festivities start tomorrow and, although it's too late to get the chocolate box, it's sure to be an interesting event for anyone who wants to know more about chocolate.

Speaking of the tree, the office move is coming next week and the tree move is imminent.  Time to get the cling wrap ready and my trusty moving assistant (my wife) so that our plants don't get too stressed on the way over.  My boss generously offered the back of his truck as a means of transportation not thinking of how delicate moving a plant can be.  It would get too banged up back there for it to survive the trip.  Some of the other plants might be needing new homes soon since I'm not sure where I will be able to put them all.