Sunday, May 17, 2009
Coffea arabica is a shrub with evergreen leaves, and reaches a height of fourteen to twenty feet when fully grown. The shrub produces dimorphic branches, i.e., branches of two forms, known as uprights and laterals. When young, the plants have a main stem, the upright, which, however, eventually sends out side shoots, the laterals. The laterals may send out other laterals, known as secondary laterals; but no lateral can ever produce an upright. The laterals are produced in pairs and are opposite, the pairs being borne in whorls around the stem. The laterals are produced only while the joint of the upright, to which they are attached, is young; and if they are broken off at that point, the upright has no power to reproduce them. The upright can produce new uprights also; but if an upright is cut off, the laterals at that position tend to thicken up. This is very desirable, as the laterals produce the flowers, which seldom appear on the uprights. This fact is utilized in pruning the coffee tree, the uprights being cut back, the laterals then becoming more productive. Planters generally keep their trees pruned down to about six feet. The leaves are lanceolate, or lance-shaped, being borne in pairs opposite each other. They are three to six inches in length, with an acuminate apex, somewhat attenuate at the base, with very short petioles which are united with the short interpetiolar stipules at the base. The coffee leaves are thin, but of firm texture, slightly coriaceous. They are very dark green on the upper surface, but much lighter underneath. The margin of the leaf is entire and wavy. In some tropical countries the natives brew a coffee tea from the leaves of the coffee tree. The coffee flowers are small, white, and very fragrant, having a delicate characteristic odor. They are borne in the axils of the leaves in clusters, and several crops are produced in one season, depending on the conditions of heat and moisture that prevail in the particular season. The different blossomings are classed as main blossoming and smaller blossomings. In semi-dry high districts, as in Costa Rica or Guatemala, there is one blossoming season, about March, and flowers and fruit are not found together, as a rule, on the trees. But in lowland plantations where rain is perennial, blooming and fruiting continue practically all the year; and ripe fruits, green fruits, open flowers, and flower buds are to be found at the same time on the same branchlet, not mixed together, but in the order indicated.