Fudged image: historic illustration shows cocoa pod on stem [...]

Call it the fake news of the colonial era. Today, it is commonly known that the fruit of the cocoa tree is unusual: it does not grow on the branches, but hangs directly from the trunk on a short stem. But in the time after Europeans learned of such tropical plants, but before photography and before they were successfully grown in Europe, botanical illustrators tried to depict them only on the basis of pieces brought back from the New World by scientists. Any gaps in knowledge were filled in by the artists imagination.

Thus, in one grand volume of botanical illustrations, the cocoa pod itself is accurately rendered, but is depicted growing upwards from a branch in defiance of gravity.

This interesting example of inaccuracy through artistic invention was shown to me by Matze, the gardener of Berlin’s Prinzessinnengärten, who has this print in his private collection precisely because he he is intrigued by the careful visual construction of a falsehood.

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