Looking for a fun way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your garden club or gardening class? Try exploring the botanical royalty of the holiday: the cacao tree and rose bush. Seriously, what says love better than a box of chocolates and a bouquet of roses? With plant products in the limelight, Valentine’s Day provides you with the perfect opportunity to show your young gardeners the important role plants play in our celebrations and traditions. Here are a few fun facts to share with your kids 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. The optimal growing conditions occur in regions right around the Equator. For great in-depth information, including videos about the production and processing of cocoa, visit The Story of Chocolate from the Chocolate Council.
- The National Confectioners Association recently reported that 70% of Americans will give chocolate or candy gifts for Valentine’s Day. They estimate that 40 million boxes of chocolates will be purchased for the holiday.
Check out the results of their 2017 Valentine’s Day survey.
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.
Keep it real. Remind young gardeners that 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.
- 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 of roses found in Colorado dating back to 35 million years ago, native rose species are now 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 throughout the civilized world.
- Aboutflowers.com estimates that more than 250 million roses will be grown for Valentine’s Day 2017 and that 35% of American’s will buy them as gifts, spending close to $2 billion dollars. Now that’s a lot of roses!
Do you have any good Valentine’s Day facts or garden-related activity ideas to share with other garden educators or parents? Please leave them in the comments below.
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone! Go out and support the horticulture industry!