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Vanilla grows in the undergrowth of damp tropical forests.
It was already being reproduced in Mexico by grafting long before the Spanish conquistadores arrived.
The earliest written and illustrated reference to vanilla appears in the Codex Badianus, written by the Aztec physicians Martinus de la Cruz and Juannes Badiano.
Up until the nineteenth century , all attempts to produce vanilla from this plant outside its original environment ended in failure.
In fact , it was not known that indigenous bees played an indispensable role in fertilizing the plant , without which the fruits would not form. Vanilla became very popular in Europe. It was particularly appreciated at the French court.
Louis XIV decided to attempt to introduce the vanilla vine on the Ile Bourbon ( today's Reunion Island). The various attempts made under his reign all failed .
The first artificial pollination was carried out in 1836 in the Botanical Garden in Liège by the Belgian, Charles Morren.
It was in 1841 that a slave known by the forename Edmond invented the process still in practice today.
On the abolition of slavery in 1848 , in recognition , the young man was given the surname Albius , in reference to the white colour of the vanilla flowers (In Latin , white is called "albius, "albi" .)
Plantation growers introduced vanilla in around 1880 to the eastern regions of Madagascar , to Antalaha and Sambava , where the humid climate was favourable to the crop. It soon became popular and Malagasy produced in Réunion Island.
In spite of competition from other countries sush as Indonesia , Madagascar remains by far the major worldwide vanilla exporter.
Madagascar produces 60% of the world's vanilla.