Coca is a plant in the family Erythroxylaceae,
native to north-western South America. The
plant plays a significant role in traditional
Andean culture. Coca leaves contain cocaine
alkaloids, a basis for the drug cocaine, which
is a powerful stimulant.
The plant resembles a blackthorn bush,
and grows to a height of 2–3 m (7–10 ft). The
branches are straight, and the leaves, which
have a green tint, are thin, opaque, oval, and
taper at the extremities. A marked character-
istic of the leaf is an areolated portion
bounded by two longitudinal curved lines,
one line on each side of the midrib, and more
conspicuous on the under face of the leaf.
The flowers are small, and disposed in
little clusters on short stalks; the corolla is
composed of five yellowish-white petals, the
anthers are heart-shaped, and the pistil con-
sists of three carpels united to form a three-
chambered ovary. The flowers mature into
The leaves are sometimes eaten by the lar-
vae of the moth Eloria noyesi.
There are twelve main species and varieties.
Two subspecies, Erythroxylum coca var. coca
and E. coca var. ipadu, are almost indistin-
guishable phenotypically; a related high
cocaine-bearing species has two subspecies,
E. novogranatense var. novogranatense and
E. novogranatense var. truxillense that are
phenotypically similar, but morphologically
distinguishable. Under the older Cronquist
system of classifying flowering plants, this
was placed in an order Linales; more modern
systems place it in the order Malpighiales.
See also: Coca production in Colombia
Coca is traditionally cultivated in the lower
altitudes of the eastern slopes of the Andes,
or the highlands depending on the species
grown. Since ancient times, its leaves have
been an important trade commodity between