The Age of Chocolate

Together with researchers at the University of the Andes, University of Miami and the USDA we have recently published an article that investigates the diversification history of Theobroma (the genus to which Theobroma cacao, the source of chocolate, belongs). We show that the genus and its relative Herrania diversified from approximately thirteen million years ago. This diversification coincided with, and may in part have been caused by, the formation of the Andes Mountains in Northwestern South America. Colombia is home to 50% of the 20 or so species in Theobroma and is thus a centre of diversity for the genus.


We also show that Theobroma cacao evolved 10 million years ago which means that we should not be surprised to see extensive genetic diversity within the species. Varieties of cacao that have different flavours or may be resistant to fungal diseases may be of benefit to a growing chocolate industry. Maintenance of this genetic diversity in its natural state, together with the animals that pollinate flowers and disperse fruits in native ecosystems, has the potential to assist with improving the quality and quantity of production that could help ensure an environmentally and economically sustainable future for the chocolate industry.

You can download a pdf of the article here.

Festival Colombiano 2015

Come and learn about RBGE’s work in Colombia. Meet our team who are researching Colombia’s rich botanical diversity and their efforts to conserve it.


With music from Khantara, dance, art and craft activites. All free.

12-5 pm, Sunday 30th of August, John Hope Gateway, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

rbgeColombia on ARC Gloria

              We invite you to visit Colombias’s National Flagship ARC Gloria.


Explore this magnificent vessel and learn about Colombia’s rich natural resources, habitats and people and join us in celebrating some of Colombia’s vibrant cultural traditions.

Music and dance by the ship’s band, art and crafts activities. All free.

1-5 pm on Saturday 29th of August at Ocean Terminal, Ocean Drive, Edinburgh.

The Cocaine Conspiracy at the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas

You are invited to our show “The Cocaine Conspiracy” at the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, taking place at the Fringe festival this year.

The show will be from 3pm to 4pm on the 23rd of August 2015 at St Andrew Square.

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas is a debate, discussion and discourse, designed as an informal platform for academics and researchers to engage with the public on an array of topics.

Tickets are available at

The cocaine trade has enormous social and ecological consequences on both global and local scales. The production of cocaine involves large scale deforestation and pollution as a result of the discarding of the reagents used to process from leaf to final product. Western governments have been pursuing the so-called war on drugs for many years at a cost of billions of dollars. But how successful has this approach been? Is a hard line approach the only solution? In this forum we will discuss this and alternative approaches to tackling the problem.

Cocaine Conspiracy 1

The event  discussion will expose personal opinions and will not reflect RBGE views.

Latin American Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest Floristic Network – Video Short

Latin American dry forests are some of the most endangered on earth.The Latin American Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest Floristic Network was established to promote the conservation of this ecosystem. Only 3% of this ecosystem is covered in the Colombian National System of Protected Areas. This video highlights the importance of dry forests and the possibilities for their restoration and conservation.


Innovative Learning Week Amazonian Myths Workshop

Sustainability and conservation are often associated with western science. However the indigenous communities of the Amazon have maintained a symbiotic sustainable interaction with their forests for millenia. To ancient communities like the Uitotos (an indigenous group from the Amazon), myths are stories that are kept alive through rituals and oral heritage. Myths are essential to them, as they are for any group of people who use them, as they are context related and demonstrate patterns of behaviour that teach how to live and interact with every life form.

With the aim of showcasing elements of Colombia’s rich biodiversity and cultural heritage rbgeColombia (this time lead by Javier Luna and Juliana Ramos) have been exploring the relationship that the Uitotos have with the Amazon forest. Using the rich imagery of the myths we designed a workshop with narration and movement to explore the ideas they transmit. This allowed participants to feel at ease creating a space of open dialogue and embodiment.

rbgeColombiaILWWe received extremely positive feedback and will be running the workshop again at the RBGE and in Colombia.

This workshop was designed with the support of the Innovative Learning Week 2015, The University of Edinburgh. 

Congratulations Maca!

Our first ever Colombian PhD student Maca successfully defended her thesis yesterday. Her thesis assessed population genetics and phylogeography of two groups of plants that are found in páramo vegetation. Very few studies have focused on relationships within species in the páramo so Maca is a true pioneer! Her work involved extensive fieldwork to some beautiful and challenging localities in Colombia that she was happy to visit…


although there were moments…


In addition to her research, Maca also made a huge contribution to our public engagement program, a line of work that she hopes to pursue in the future.

Congratulations once again Maca!