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Erythroxylon Coca - Source of Cocaine

Erythroxylon Coca-Source of Cocaine

Erythroxylum coca - also known as Erythroxylon coca - has a naturally occurring alkaloid in its leaves.  That alkaloid is called "cocaine."

E. coca is from southern Peru, Bolivia and the Amazonian rainforest.  Its leaves are picked three or four times each year. 

The plant - which can grow as high as three feet - is hearty.  Professor Fred Landau (from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas) tells us why E. coca grows so well:

  •  It has few predators and pests (in part because of its cocaine content in the leaves.
  •  It will grow on poor soils and steep slopes, where many other plants will not grow.
  •  It protects against soil erosion.
  •  It lives for 40 years or more.It tolerates many harvests.

The naturally occurring source for cocaine is thus capable of producing huge quantities of leaves which are processed to produce huge quantities of an addictive drug. 


Media Credits

Photo by H. Zell; image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

 

License:  CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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