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.

    [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.
    Inflorescences
    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 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
    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]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Marula is an African tree, the juicy fruits of which are highly prized by humans and other animals.

    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.

    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.

    View details and images of specimens

    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.

    [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.
    [UPPd]
    Pain
    Bark is used to treat toothache. Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. Back ache Bark - Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants of Tswapong north, in eastern Botswana: A case of plants from Moswue and Seolwane villages
    Skin or Subcutaneous Cellular Tissue Disorders
    Bark used to treat ulcers Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition.
    Shade Shelter
    Entire plant - Medicinal and Edible wild fruit plants of Botswana as emerging new crop opportunities
    Herbage
    Other Game Animals Leaves - Field guide to trees of Southern Africa
    Infections & Infestations
    The bark is used to treat enlarged spleens Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. Bark used to treat malaria Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. Bark used to treat fever Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. Bark - Field guide to trees of Southern Africa
    Digestive System Disorders
    The bark is used to treat stomach troubles. Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. Leaves are eaten for heartburn. Leaves - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. Used to treat dysentry Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. The bark is used to treat enlarged livers. Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. The bark is used to treat constipation. Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. Bark used to treat diarrhoea Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. Bark - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    Local Cultural Disorders
    The roots of this plant with those of Zanthoxylum calybeum and Capparis tomentosa are pounded and the filtration mixed with liquor as a treatment for internal body harm referred to as 'Kati' (Kamba) Roots (incl. Rhizomes etc) - Medicinal Plants of East Af
    Wood
    Tools Stems - Medicinal and Edible wild fruit plants of Botswana as emerging new crop opportunities Tools - The wood is used to make mortars and utensils. Stems - Medicinal and Edible wild fruit plants of Botswana as emerging new crop opportunities Vehicles - Its wood is used to make canoes. Stems - Medicinal and Edible wild fruit plants of Botswana as emerging new crop opportunities
    Genitourinary System Disorders
    Uteral sore and strengthen vaginal muscles Bark - Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants of Tswapong north, in eastern Botswana: A case of plants from Moswue and Seolwane villages
    [KSP]
    Use
    Edible fruits, medicine, timber.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    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
    Tutin, C.E.G. [22], Senegal K000452125
    Sihronen, J. [130], Burkina Faso K000452126
    Leeuwenberg, A.J.M. [4331], Burkina Faso K000452127
    Kitson, A. [653], Ghana K000452129
    Kitson, A. [649], Ghana K000452130
    Kitson, A. [839], Ghana K000452131
    Onochie, C.F.A. [23352], Nigeria K000452132
    Wit, P. [51168], Nigeria K000452134
    Dalziel, J.M. [120], Ghana K000452138
    Holtz [1064], Tanzania K000423403
    Heudelot, D. [1828], Senegal K000423407
    Schimper [1575], Ethiopia K000423408
    Ethiopia K000423409
    Schimper [610], Ethiopia K000423410
    Ash, J. [1599], Ethiopia 34534.000
    Hoyle, A.C. [602], Sudan 9847.000
    Bally, P.R.O. [5443], Kenya 11487.000
    Tweedie, E.M. [3408], Uganda 30525.000
    Espirito Santo, J. [2504], Guinea-Bissau K000452123
    Chevalier, A.J.B. [1207], Mali K000452124

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

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015) The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan . Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [5] Kalema, J. & Beentje, H. (2012) Conservation checklist of the trees of Uganda . Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [9] Onana, J.M. (2011) The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments . National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé.
    • [10] (2009) Scripta Botanica Belgica 41: 1-517
    • [12] 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.
    • [13] Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (eds.) (2006) Flore Analytique du Bénin . Backhuys Publishers.
    • [23] Lebrun, J.p., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991) Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • [26] Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986) Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali . Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux.
    • [30] Peyre de Fabregues, B. & Lebrun, J.-P. (1976) Catalogue des Plantes Vascularies du Niger . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • [32] Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972) Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • [34] (1954-1958) Flora of West Tropical Africa , ed. 2, 1: 1-828

    Literature

    • [2] Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015) The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan . Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [3] Ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants of Tswapong north, in eastern Botswana: A case of plants from Moswue and Seolwane villages
    • [4] Field guide to trees of Southern Africa
    • [6] Kalema, J. & Beentje, H. (2012) Conservation checklist of the trees of Uganda . Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [7] Sacande, M., Sanou, L. & Beentje, H. J. (2012). Guide de Terrain des Arbres de Burkina Faso. Kew Publishing, Kew.
    • [8] Medicinal and Edible wild fruit plants of Botswana as emerging new crop opportunities
    • [11] Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition.
    • [14] Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (eds.) (2006) Flore Analytique du Bénin . Backhuys Publishers.
    • [15] New opportunities for combating desertification in Botswana: Women in action for sustainable land and natural resources management
    • [16] Coates Palgrave, K. (2002). Trees of Southern Africa, 3rd Edition. Struik, Cape Town, Johannesburg.
    • [17] The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    • [18] Wyk, B-E. van, Oudtshoorn, B. van & Gericke, N. (1997). Medicinal Plants of South Africa. Briza, Pretoria.

    • [19] Wickens, G. E. (1995). Potential Edible Nuts/Edible Nuts (Non-wood Forest Products 5). Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome.
    • [20] Beentje, H. J. (1994). Kenya Trees, Shrubs and Lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.
    • [21] Barry, J. P. & Celles, J.S. (1991) Flore de Mauritanie 1: 1-359. Centre Regional de Documentation Pedagogique, Nice..
    • [22] Jones, M. (1991) A checklist of Gambian plants . Michael Jones, The Gambia College.
    • [24] Lebrun, J.p., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991) Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • [25] (1986) Flora of Tropical East Africa , Anacardiaceae: 1-59
    • [27] Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986) Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali . Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux.
    • [28] Kokwaro, J. O. (1986). Anacardiaceae. In: Flora of Tropical East Africa, ed. R. M. Polhill. Balkema, Rotterdam.
    • [29] Boulvert, Y. (1977) Catalogue de la Flore de Centrafrique 3: 1-89. ORSTROM, Bangui.
    • [31] Peyre de Fabregues, B. & Lebrun, J.-P. (1976) Catalogue des Plantes Vascularies du Niger . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • [33] Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972) Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • [35] Chev. Bot. 157.
    • [36] F.T.A. 1: 449
    • [37] in Flora 27, Bes. Beil. 1 (1844)

    Sources

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

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

    International Plant Names Index
    The International Plant Names Index (2016). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org
    [C] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

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

    Project MGU – Useful Plants Project (UPP) database
    [F]

    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
    World Checklist of Selected Plant Families(2016). Published on the Internet http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    [G] See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [H] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index and World Checkist of Selected Plant Families. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0