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Cola - (P.Beauv.) Schott & Endl.

Common Name Cola Nut, Kola, Bissy Nut
Family Malvaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Habitats An understorey tree in humid lowland forests[ 303 , 307 ].
Range Southern, western and central tropical Africa.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Cola Cola Nut, Kola, Bissy Nut

Cola Cola Nut, Kola, Bissy Nut


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Cola acuminata or commonly known as Cola Nut is a tropical, medium-sized tree with low branches, grey or dark green bark, leathery dark green leaves, and white or cream flowers native to West Africa. It usually grows about 13-20 m in height. Cola nut has astringent properties. The seed is aromatic and has high caffeine content. It is chewed or ground into powder and made into a drink. Nut extracts are used in carbonated drinks, ice cream, candies, baked goods, etc. Red kernels are used as food colorant. The plant is used medicinally against diarrhoea, dysentery, vomiting in high fever, piles, headache, and stomach ulcers. The wood is a good source of fuel and is used in making furniture, house and boat building, plates, etc. in Africa cola nut tree is seen as a symbol of hospitality.

Physical Characteristics

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Cola is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Sterculia acuminata P.Beauv.


Edible Uses

Edible portion: Seeds, Herb, Flavouring, Fruit, Leaves. The aromatic seed is rich in caffeine, containing 1.25 - 2.4% caffeine, and acts as a stimulant[ 238 , 301 ]. It can be chewed or ground into a powder and made into a drink in order to give energy, increase alertness, retard hunger and fatigue, aid digestion and increase stamina[ 301 ]. When the whole nuts are chewed, they taste bitter at first but they leave a sweet taste in the mouth later that affects other foods or drinks that are consumed[ 301 ]. Thus chewing cola nuts before drinking water helps to render the water sweeter[ 303 ]. The bitter tasting seeds are much appreciated by Muslims in the drier region of West Africa, especially during the month of Ramadan[ 303 ]. The nuts are used for non-alcoholic soft drinks like Coca-Cola[ 303 ]. An extract, prepared from the dried kernels, is used to flavour carbonated drinks, ice cream, candy, baked goods etc[ 301 ]. The kernels can be red, white or pink[ 301 ]. The red ones can be used as a natural food colorant[ 301 ].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Cola nuts contain up to 2.5% caffeine, plus theobromine, tannins, phlobaphene and an anthocyanin[ 254 ]. They stimulate the nervous system when chewed and are also considered to be a digestive tonic, diuretic, astringent and antidepressant[ 254 , 303 , 307 ]. They counteract overstrain and depression thus improving the physical and mental state. The principle action is that of caffeine. Other active principles include theobromine and kolatine[ 303 ]. Because of its astringent properties, cola is used as a non-addictive stimulant in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery[ 254 , 303 ], and also to prevent vomiting in cases of high fever[ 303 ]. It has also been used in the treatment of headaches and migraine[ 254 ]. It has been used in combination with coca leaf (Erythroxylum coca) to produce a stimulant drug that has been used as 'Forced March' tablets by explorers and military expeditions[ 303 ]. The crushed nuts are boiled together with the leaves of Morinda lucida and the liquid taken internally to cure piles[ 303 ]. The nuts ground to a fine paste together with the leaves of Scoparia dulce, are dissolved in a little water and a few drops are administered orally to babies for headache[ 303 ]. The seeds are harvested when fully ripe and dried in the sun[ 254 ]. An infusion of the bark mixed with ginger and a little pepper is taken internally to cure stomach ulcers[ 303 ].

Other Uses

Other Uses: The seed is reputed to act as a water purifier[ 303 ]. The sapwood is pinkish-white and the heartwood dull yellow. It is suitable for furniture, house and boat building, coach-work, plates, domestic utensils, gun stocks, joinery and carvings[ 303 ]. The wood is a good source of fuel[ 303 ].

Cultivation details

Cola needs a hot humid climate, with a mean annual temperature in the range 26 - 35c, and a mean annual rainfall of 1,200 - 1,800mm[ 303 ]. However, it can withstand a dry season on sites with a high ground water level and it may be cultivated in drier areas where ground water is available[ 303 ]. Though it is a lowland forest tree it has also been found at altitudes over 300 metres on deep rich soils under heavy and evenly distributed rainfall[ 303 ]. Prefers a minimum temperature no lower than 13c[ 238 ]. Prefers a deep, rich, well-drained soil[ 303 , 307 ], although it may also be found in marshy areas[ 303 ]. Does well in both light and heavy soils[ 303 ]. Intolerant of soils with a high pH[ 335 ]. Cola grows naturally in the shade, but it develops a better spreading crown which yields more fruits when grown in open places[ 303 ]. Trees start producing at around the age of 12 - 15 years and can produce 10 - 16 kilos of seed annually for more than 80 years[ 238 ]. Trees commence flowering and fruiting when they are small[ 307 ]. Yields of 300 nuts per mature tree are considered good[ 303 ]. Plants are often used as shade trees for cocoa (Theobroma cacao) plantations[ 238 ]. Muslims consider the cola nut as sacred and brought by the prophet Mohammed. They use the nut for ceremonial and social occasions[ 303 ].

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Seed - sow individually in containers[ 200 ]. The seedlings are sometimes raised in pots or in polythene bags before planting out[ 303 ]. Ripe fruits harvested before the follicles split open, the seeds or nuts are extracted from the follicles and the white aril removed after 5 days of fermentation. Nuts for planting are the mature ones that have undergone after-ripening[ 303 ]. Cuttings of mature wood[ 200 ]. Aerial layering.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Cola acuminata or commonly known as Cola Nut.Other Names: Abata-kola, Angbongbolia, Angbongo, Caffeine nut, Gbongbole, Gooranut, Gorra, Ibal, Kola nut, Korra, Libel, Ligo, Liko, Liyelu, Noz-de-cola, Obi abata, Ribey, Sombou.

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Angola, Australia, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Central Africa, Central African Republic, CAR, Central America, Colombia, Congo DR, Congo R, Cuba, East Africa, Equatorial-Guinea, Gabon, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, South America, Togo, Venezuela, West Africa, West Indies, Zambia.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

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Cola acuminataCola Nut, Kola, Bissy Nut34
Cola nitidaCola Nut, Kola, Bissy Nuts34
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(P.Beauv.) Schott & Endl.

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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