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Sclerocarya birrea - (A.Rich.) Hochst

Common Name Marula
Family Anacardiaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Drier savannah of the Sahel[332 ]. Wooded grasslands, riverine woodlands and bushlands[325 ]. Mixed deciduous woodland and wooded grassland, often on rocky hills, from sea level to 1,200 metres.
Range Tropical Africa - drier areas from Mauritania, Senegal to Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, south to Namibia, Botswana, NE S. Africa, Madagascar.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Sclerocarya birrea Marula

Wikimedia.org - JMK
Sclerocarya birrea Marula


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Edible portion: Kernels, Fruit, Nuts, Vegetable, Leaves, Seed. There are 4 Sclerocarya species. The fruit are rich in Vitamin C.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Sclerocarya birrea is a deciduous Tree growing to 13 m (42ft) by 13 m (42ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Moths. The plant is not self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid and saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Commiphora acutidens Engl. Commiphora subglauca Engl. Poupartia caffra (Sond.) H.Perrier Sclerocarya caffra Sond. Sclerocarya schweinfurthiana Schinz Spondias birrea A.Rich.


Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Fruit - raw or cooked[301 ]. The fully ripe fruits have a mucilaginous texture with a sweetly acid but pleasant taste[301 , 307 , 332 , 774 ]. It is variously described as tasting like a mango, like a guava or as not being tasty at all[307 ]. Often eaten as a snack, travellers out in the bush find them satisfying to suck for their thirst-quenching effects[332 ]. The pulp can be used to prepare jam and wine[398 ]. It can be boiled down to a thick black syrup and used as a sweetening agent[301 ]. Contains four times as much vitamin C as oranges[301 ]. The fruit is pale yellow, obovoid, up to 37mm long with a leathery rind like a mango and a similar fibrous soft pulp covering the stone[200 , 307 , 332 ]. The expressed juice makes an agreeable drink, and in many areas is fermented into an alcoholic beverage[332 ]. The juice may also be boiled down to a thick black consistency used for sweetening guinea-corn gruel[332 ]. The fruits cannot be stored for more than a week, they bruise easily and therefore are difficult to transport[324 ]. Seed - raw or cooked[301 , 325 ]. A flavour similar to walnuts or peanuts[301 ]. They can be ground into a flour[301 ]. The nut contains two or three seeds with oily and edible kernels[332 , 398 ].Each seed is up to 20mm long and 8mm wide[308 ]. The seed is difficult to extract from the nut[324 ]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[335 , 398 ]. Containing 28% protein, it is used for cooking[301 ]. The oil consists of 64% oleic acid, 17% myristic acid and small quantities of several others[332 ]. The oil has a quality and fatty acid composition comparable to olive oil but with a stability that is 10 times greater[303 ]. Staple Crop: Protein-Oil.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Vitamin C

The bark is analgesic, anti-inflammatory[332 ]. An infusion is used in the treatment of stomach-pains and constipation, to ease labour-pains[332 ]. A decoction is used as a purge[332 ]. The analgesic action is utilized to quell a toothache by chewing the bark and placing it in carious cavities in the teeth[332 ]. The bark, especially of the roots, but also of the trunk, is used as a remedy for snake-bites[332 ]. Pounded to a paste, it must be rubbed on the area until a swelling is raised, then a decoction of the bark is drunk and a dressing applied over the area[332 ]. The leaves may also be used for this purpose[332 ]. The bark is used externally as an anti-inflammation preparation and, with butter added, is applied to the forehead for headache, and to the eyes for blepharitis[332 ]. A decoction is used as a wash on skin-eruptions[332 ]. The root is pounded up with water, and the water is drunk in the treatment of schistosomiasis[332 ]. This water is also used for washing scabies[332 ]. The fruit is said to be laxative[332 ]. The leaves and fruits are chewed as a treatment for coughs[398 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Agroforestry Uses: The tree is used to provide shade and act as a windbreak[325 ]. Other Uses: The bark yields a strong fibre[324 , 332 , 774 ]. It is used for making ropes[325 ]. When injured, the bark exudes a nearly colourless gum which becomes brittle and friable on drying. The gum, dissolved in water and mixed with soot, is used to make ink[332 , 774 ]. The bark contains around 20% tannins[303 ]. The bark is used to prepare a mauve, pink, brown or red dye, the colour depending on methods used[299 ]. The seed contains 56% of a non-drying oil[303 ]. The oil obtained from the seed is used for skin care[299 ]. The oil-rich seeds burn brightly like a candle[307 ]. The heartwood is greyish dirty white to red-brown; it is not clearly demarcated from the thin band of sapwood. The wood is coarse textured, interlocked grain, light to moderate weight, soft and weak. It is moderately durable when well-seasoned; easy to work with well-sharpened tools; takes nails; turns well; can be carved; and takes a good polish. When big enough it is used for mortars and strong black-stained bowls[332 , 774 ]. Of the woods used to make these bowls, this species is considered the best[332 ]. In Jebel Marra wooden platters are made of it, and in Ethiopia milking vessels and axe-handles[332 ]. The wood is also used for making drums and hollowed-out canoes; pestles and mortars; bowls, furniture, saddles and carvings[307 , 324 ]. The wood is used for fuel[299 ]. Several moths breed on the tree including Argema mimosae - the beautiful African Moon Moth.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  Staple Crop: Protein-oil  Wild Staple Crop

A plant of low to medium elevations in hot, dry, tropical savannah and forest areas[335 ]. It grows in areas where the mean annual temperature is within the range 19 - 35°c; the mean annual rainfall is in the range 200 - 1,600mm; and there is a well-defined dry season[303 , 325 ]. It prefers a warm, frost-free climate but is also found at high altitudes where temperatures may drop below freezing point for a very short period in winter[303 ]. Requires a sunny position[307 ]. An easily grown plant requiring very little attention once established, it succeeds in soils that are too poor to support other crops[63 , 200 ]. It prefers well drained sandy soils and loams in the wild, though it is also often found growing on rocky hills[325 ]. The plant is very tolerant of saline soils[325 ]. Tolerates a pH in the range 4.5 - 6.5[200 ]. Young trees are susceptible to fire damage[398 ]. Marula is fast growing, reaching 3.5 metres in height within 8 years in areas with 600mm mean annual rainfall[299 ]. Mean heights of planted trees 4 - 5 years old in Israel were 4.1 - 6.2 metres, with boles 13 - 18 cm in diameter[299 ]. Wild trees in Mali, estimated 11 - 12 years and 32 years old, were 8.2 metres and 6.9 metres tall respectively, with boles 28cm and 45cm in diameter[299 ]. It is one of the fastest growing trees in South Africa, with a growth rate of up to 1.5 metres per year when young[303 ]. Trees have set fruit after just 3 years in a trial in Israel[324 ]. A single female tree can yield 2,100 - 9,100 fruits in a season, the fruits falling while still green and ripening on the ground[324 ]. A dioecious species, although occasional trees bear flowers of both sexes. Usually, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Staple Crop: Protein-oil  (16+ percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Annuals include soybeans, peanuts, sunflower seeds. Perennials include seeds, beans, nuts, and fruits such as almond, Brazil nut, pistachio, walnut, hazel, and safou.
  • Wild Staple Crop  Some wild plants have strong historical or contemporary use. Although they are not cultivated crops, they may be wild-managed.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - dried seed can retain its viability for several years[325 ]. The hard seed shell) forms a physical barrier to seed germination and removal of the opercula (lids) will significantly improve germination, with the seeds germinating faster and more uniformly. This must be done manually with a small chisel and is normally too time consuming to be feasible[325 ]. Germination has also been reported to be improved if the stones are cracked in a vice but this must be done carefully as the seeds are very fragile and easily damaged[325 ]. Furthermore, cracking may increase seed microflora. It is not recommended to extract the seeds. Treatment with acid has shown good results[325 ]. If the opercula have been removed, germination is fast and uniform, reaching 70% after one week and 85% after two weeks from sowing. Without treatment, germination may take as long as nine months[325 ]. It is easily propagated from cuttings[332 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Ethiopian marvola nut, Maroola plum, Marula, Akamil, Daniya, Didissa, Dineygama, Eijikai, Ejikai, Ekajijai, Enaimu, Gene, Gummel, Hemaidai, Himed, Katetalam, Kokwaro, Kuma, Likok, M'ckoowee, Mbwegele, Mng'ongo, Mngongo, Mtondooko, Mugongo, Muhonga, Nagna, Ndouas, Ng'ongwa, Ngoringo, Nobse, Nunga, Olmang'wai, Olmangusai, Omugongo, Otitimo, Otitipo, Paatta, Paatta-aguta, Pasha, Yeberha-lomi,

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Africa, Angola, Asia, Australia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central Africa, Chad, East Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinée, Guinea-Bissau, India, Kenya, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, North Africa, Sahel, Senegal, South Africa, Southern Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, West Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Expert comment


(A.Rich.) Hochst

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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