1. Family: Anacardiaceae R.Br.
    1. Genus: Sclerocarya Hochst.
      1. Sclerocarya birrea (A.Rich.) Hochst.

        An African tree with juicy fruits that are much sought after by many local people, marula is a member of the Anacardiaceae, the same plant family to which mangos and cashews belong. Marula fruit is highly prized by many animals, from elephants to mongooses - although the story that they can get drunk on fermented fruit is probably just fiction. The fruit pulp is made into a popular alcoholic drink, known as maroela mampoer or amarula.

    [FWTA]

    Anacardiaceae, Hutchinson and Dalziel. Flora of West Tropical Africa 1:2. 1958

    Habit
    A savannah tree, to 40 ft. high,
    Bark
    Grey fissured bark
    Branches
    Stout branchlets
    Leaves
    Pale foliage
    Flowers
    Flowers greenish-white or reddish
    Fruits
    Fruits yellow, thick-skinned, resembling a small mango
    Shoots
    Sterile regrowth shoots often with coarsely serrate leaflets
    Ecology
    In the drier savannah regions.
    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    An African tree with juicy fruits that are much sought after by many local people, marula is a member of the Anacardiaceae, the same plant family to which mangos and cashews belong. Marula fruit is highly prized by many animals, from elephants to mongooses - although the story that they can get drunk on fermented fruit is probably just fiction. The fruit pulp is made into a popular alcoholic drink, known as maroela mampoer or amarula.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Marula is distributed from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to South Africa and is also found in Madagascar.

    Description

    Overview: A tree up to 18 m tall, with a rounded crown (the leafy part of the tree) and cracked, grey bark. Trees are either male or female.

    Leaves: Divided into 7‒21 leaflets with separate points of attachment along a central axis.

    Flowers: Small, whitish-purple to red, in tight groups on long stalks (male flowers) or in clusters of 1‒3 (female flowers).

    Fruit: Yellow, round or egg-shaped, 2.5‒5.0 cm across, with a juicy flesh surrounding a hard stone.

    Uses

    Marula fruit is prized by many African people. It has a delicate nutty flavour and contains a higher concentration of vitamin C than oranges. The stone is high in protein, and the seed oil contains antioxidants.

    A decoction of the bark is used medicinally against malaria, scorpion and snake bites, dysentery, diarrhoea and haemorrhoids. An infusion of the fruit is used to bathe cattle with the aim of destroying any ticks present.

    The wood is used for furniture, planks, carving and utensils. Rope is made from the inner bark, and the bark also yields a red-brown dye used in traditional crafts. The nectar attracts insect pollinators, and marula is often planted to attract pollinators to farms.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Sclerocarya birrea (marula) fruits

    Eight collections of marula seeds are held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    See Kew's Seed Information Database for more information on Sclerocarya birrea seeds

    Cultivation

    Marula can be grown from seed or from sticks planted during the early rainy season. It can grow up to 1.5 m in a year but will not tolerate frost.

    This species at Kew

    Sclerocarya birrea is grown in the behind-the-scenes Tropical Nursery at Kew.

    Dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Sclerocarya birrea are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these specimens, including some images, can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

    Specimens of marula wood and bark and a box of marula-flavoured biscuits are held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    Distribution
    Madagascar
    Ecology
    Wooded grassland, woodland, bushland on rocky hills.
    Conservation
    Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria; widespread and locally common.
    Hazards

    None known.

    [FTEA]

    Anacardiaceae, J. O. Kokwaro (University of Nairobi). Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1986

    Habit
    A spreading deciduous tree up to 18 m. high; bole pale grey, widely reticulate and flaking in small or large scales.
    Leaves
    Leaves variable, 7–37-foliolate, 10–38 cm. long; rachis semicylindric, grooved above, glabrous; leaflets round, ovate, obovate, elliptic or oblong-elliptic, 0.8–9(–11) cm. long, 0.7–3.5(6) cm. broad, acuminate or cuspidate to obtuse or apiculate at the apex, asymmetric and slightly cuneate or rounded at the base, margin entire to dentate-serrate (especially on new outgrowths), lateral ones sessile or with petiolules up to 3 cm. long, the terminal petiolule up to 5 cm. long, membranous to semicoriaceous, glabrous; midrib prominent beneath; lateral nerves distinct on both sides and impressed or slightly raised and reticulate beneath.
    Male
    Male inflorescences 7–22 cm. long; peduncle puberulous; bracts ovate, ± 2 mm. long by 1.5 mm. broad, obtuse, puberulous or glabrous. Male flowers:sepals ± 2 mm. long and broad; petals oblong-ovate, 4–6 mm. long, 3–4 mm. broad, obtuse, yellow to dark red with cream margins; filaments ± 3 mm. long; anthers 1–1.5 mm. long.
    Inflorescences
    Female inflorescences shorter, usually 1 or 2(–3)-flowered; peduncle and pedicels thickened during fruiting stage; sepals and petals similar to ♂; staminodes present; ovary subglobose. Male inflorescences 7–22 cm. long; peduncle puberulous; bracts ovate, ± 2 mm. long by 1.5 mm. broad, obtuse, puberulous or glabrous. Male flowers:sepals ± 2 mm. long and broad; petals oblong-ovate, 4–6 mm. long, 3–4 mm. broad, obtuse, yellow to dark red with cream margins; filaments ± 3 mm. long; anthers 1–1.5 mm. long.
    Female
    Female inflorescences shorter, usually 1 or 2(–3)-flowered; peduncle and pedicels thickened during fruiting stage; sepals and petals similar to ♂; staminodes present; ovary subglobose.
    Fruits
    Drupe obovoid, 3–3.5 cm. in diameter, yellow and with a very juicy mesocarp; stone obovoid, 2–3 cm. long, 2.5 cm. in diameter.
    Seeds
    Seed 1.5–2 cm. long, 0.4–0.8 cm. wide.
    [KSP]
    Use
    Edible fruits, medicine, timber.

    Images

    Distribution

    Native to:

    Benin, Burkina, Cameroon, Central African Repu, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zaïre

    Common Names

    English
    Marula

    Sclerocarya birrea (A.Rich.) Hochst. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Jan 1, 1980 Ern, H. [3084], Togo K000452135
    Jan 1, 1980 Ern, H. [2420], Togo K000452136
    Jan 1, 1980 Ern, H. [2427], Togo K000452137
    Mar 1, 1969 Virgo, K.J. [15], Nigeria K000452133
    Jan 1, 1965 Morton, J.K. [4223], Ghana K000452128
    Ethiopia K000423409
    Bally, P.R.O. [5443], Kenya 11487.000
    Onochie, C.F.A. [23352], Nigeria K000452132
    Tweedie, E.M. [3408], Uganda 30525.000
    Dalziel, J.M. [120], Ghana K000452138
    Hoyle, A.C. [602], Sudan 9847.000
    Ash, J. [1599], Ethiopia 34534.000
    Leeuwenberg, A.J.M. [4331], Burkina Faso K000452127
    Schimper [1575], Ethiopia K000423408
    Schimper [610], Ethiopia K000423410
    Heudelot, D. [1828], Senegal K000423407
    Espirito Santo, J. [2504], Guinea-Bissau K000452123
    Holtz [1064], Tanzania K000423403
    Kitson, A. [653], Ghana K000452129
    Kitson, A. [649], Ghana K000452130
    Kitson, A. [839], Ghana K000452131
    Wit, P. [51168], Nigeria K000452134
    Chevalier, A.J.B. [1207], Mali K000452124
    Sihronen, J. [130], Burkina Faso K000452126
    Tutin, C.E.G. [22], Senegal K000452125

    First published in Flora 27(Bes. Beil.): 1 (1844)

    Accepted by

    • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Kalema, J. & Beentje, H. (2012). Conservation checklist of the trees of Uganda: 1-235. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Onana, J.M. (2011). The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments: 1-195. National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé.
    • Lisowski, S. (2009). Flore (Angiospermes) de la République de Guinée Scripta Botanica Belgica 41: 1-517.
    • Mannheimer, C.A. & Curtis, B.A. (eds.) (2009). Le Roux and Müller's field guide to the trees and shrubs of Namibia, rev. ed.: 1-525. Macmillan Education Namibia, Windhoek.
    • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (eds.) (2006). Flore Analytique du Bénin: 1-1034. Backhuys Publishers.
    • Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds.) (2003). Plants of Southern Africa an annotated checklist Strelitzia 14: 1-1231. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
    • Barry, J. P. & Celles, J.S. (1991). Flore de Mauritanie 1: 1-359. Centre Regional de Documentation Pedagogique, Nice.
    • Jones, M. (1991). A checklist of Gambian plants: 1-33. Michael Jones, The Gambia College.
    • Lebrun, J.p., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso: 1-341. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (eds.) (1989 publ. 1990). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 3: 1-659. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps.
    • Kokwaro, J.O. (1986). Flora of Tropical East Africa, Anacardiaceae: 1-59.
    • Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali: 1-465. Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux.
    • Boulvert, Y. (1977). Catalogue de la Flore de Centrafrique 3: 1-89. ORSTROM, Bangui.
    • Peyre de Fabregues, B. & Lebrun, J.-P. (1976). Catalogue des Plantes Vascularies du Niger: 1-433. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional: 1-289. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Hutchinson, J., Dalziel, J.M. & Keay, R.W.J. (1954-1958). Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 1: 1-828.

    Literature

    Kew Species Profiles
    • Sacande, M., Sanou, L. & Beentje, H. J. (2012). Guide de Terrain des Arbres de Burkina Faso. Kew Publishing, Kew.
    • Coates Palgrave, K. (2002). Trees of Southern Africa, 3rd Edition. Struik, Cape Town, Johannesburg.
    • Wyk, B-E. van, Oudtshoorn, B. van & Gericke, N. (1997). Medicinal Plants of South Africa. Briza, Pretoria.

    • Wickens, G. E. (1995). Potential Edible Nuts/Edible Nuts (Non-wood Forest Products 5). Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome.
    • Beentje, H. J. (1994). Kenya Trees, Shrubs and Lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.
    • Kokwaro, J. O. (1986). Anacardiaceae. In: Flora of Tropical East Africa, ed. R. M. Polhill. Balkema, Rotterdam.
    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    • Chev. Bot. 157.
    • F.T.A. 1: 449
    • in Flora 27, Bes. Beil. 1 (1844)
    Kew Backbone Distributions
    • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Kalema, J. & Beentje, H. (2012). Conservation checklist of the trees of Uganda: 1-235. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Onana, J.M. (2011). The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments: 1-195. National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé.
    • Lisowski, S. (2009). Flore (Angiospermes) de la République de Guinée Scripta Botanica Belgica 41: 1-517.
    • Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (eds.) (2006). Flore Analytique du Bénin: 1-1034. Backhuys Publishers.
    • Barry, J. P. & Celles, J.S. (1991). Flore de Mauritanie 1: 1-359. Centre Regional de Documentation Pedagogique, Nice.
    • Jones, M. (1991). A checklist of Gambian plants: 1-33. Michael Jones, The Gambia College.
    • Lebrun, J.p., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso: 1-341. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Kokwaro, J.O. (1986). Flora of Tropical East Africa, Anacardiaceae: 1-59.
    • Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali: 1-465. Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux.
    • Boulvert, Y. (1977). Catalogue de la Flore de Centrafrique 3: 1-89. ORSTROM, Bangui.
    • Peyre de Fabregues, B. & Lebrun, J.-P. (1976). Catalogue des Plantes Vascularies du Niger: 1-433. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional: 1-289. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Hutchinson, J., Dalziel, J.M. & Keay, R.W.J. (1954-1958). Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 1: 1-828.
    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    • Dale & Greenway, Kenya Trees and Shrubs p. 30, fig. 6 (1961).
    • van der Veken in Flore du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi, 9: 67 (1960).
    • Cufod., Enumeratio Plantarum Aethiopiae Spermatophyta (Supplement in Bull. Jard. Bot. Brux.) p. 467 (1958).
    • Keay, Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 1: 729, fig. 199 (1958).
    • Exell & Mendonça in Consp. Fl. Angol. 2: 130 (1954).
    • F. W. Andr., The Flowering Plants of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 2: 351, fig. 131 (1952)
    • W.J. Eggeling, Indigenous Trees of the Uganda Protectorate, ed. 2: 14, fig. 3 (1952).
    • J.P.M. Brenan, Check-lists of the Forest Trees and Shrubs of the British Empire no. 5, part II, Tanganyika Territory p. 38 (1949).
    • Engl., A. Engler & K. Prantl, Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien III, 5: 152 (1892).
    • Oliv. in Flora of Tropical Africa 1: 449 (1868).
    • Hochst. in Flora 27, Bes. Beil.: 1 (1844).

    Sources

    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    [A] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    [B] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2018. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    [C] © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2018. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    [D] © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    [E]
    [F] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0