In Season: Obi-Edun, Another Monkey Kola

The first time I heard of a fruit with a name prefaced by ‘Monkey’ was in 2011, when I encountered ‘Epapa‘, which turned out to be one local name for Cola lepidota, aka Monkey Kola.

It didn’t seem peculiar to me – I put it down to ‘things monkeys also ate in the forest’.


Till earlier on this year when I got some baobab and was struck by how much the flavours reminded me of tamarind. I began to investigate, reading various material. One in particular – Africa’s Baobab Trees. Why Monkey Names by Rashford – stands out. In it, the discussion around the meaning of ‘Monkey fruit’ is – something monkeys eat, or ‘monkey’ as the imitation of another. So Baobab as monkey tamarind, as a type of tamarind. Interesting…to me and a discussion I’ll continue soon, my point being this may be called Monkey Cola because it is a ‘form’ of Kola/ Cola.

Note, I use Cola and Kola interchangeably because I’m lazy on occassion :). I’m sorry xxx



Anyway, I was thrilled to discover this ‘monkey kola’ at the @opefarms stand at the #GTBankFoodandDrinkFair over the long weekend. Sisi mi told me she had the tree at the farm and it was called Obi-edun in Yoruba. She also shared that it was called monkey cola, which confused me.

I couldn’t wait to get home to research some more…and here’s what I found out.


I’ve discovered a few names, from botanical to local

Botanical name: Cola millenii K. Schum.
Family: Sterculiaceae


  • Obi-Edun, Yoruba – meaning Kolanut that’s joined together: Obi – Kolanut and Edun – joined together.
  • Achi okokoro [Igbo] 


  • Ananse Adodowa, Akan-Asante – meaning spider’s spool or bobbins: Ananse – spider and Adodowa – spool/ bobbin
  • Anyi-Aowin – ewale
  • Adangme-Krobo – asikanσyereba, asikσnobea
  • Ananse Aya, Brong –  meaning spider’s brass pot: Ananse – spider and Aya – brass pot
  • Twi – Osonkurobia


There are many fruits that are called ‘Monkey kola’. This variety, Cola millenii is a deciduous shrub or tree native to West Africa, from Ivory Coast to Nigeria.



What it looks like

The pods are bright red in colour, arranged in a star pattern with [seven] fingers. All three fruits I bought had seven bright red fingers attached to a centre so it’s safe to say, no?


Each segment has a central groove which makes perfect for opening the pod, by hand or by knife.

After a few days, the pod begins to lose moisture. It shrivels a bit.


The first thing I thought when it opened up was how much the pod/ arrangement of the seeds reminded me of cocoa. And then I read about one variety of Cola – Nitida, being related to cocoa

Cola Nitida is closely related to Theobroma cacao, the cocoa tree…; source

The seeds are covered with a thin sweet-tart pulp – which is licked/ sucked on – similar to the seeds of the cocoa pod.

Cola Millenii


Cocoa pod 

So yes, this is it. I’ll see what else there is to know and share with you.

Do you know anything? Please share xxx

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