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Tylosema esculentum - (Burch.) A.Schreib.

Common Name Marama Bean
Family Fabaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Localized in patches in grassland and wooded grassland vegetation in sandy and limestone (including dolomite) soils, but not on soils developed over granite or basalt[299 ].
Range Southern Africa - Kalahari desert and neighbouring sandy regions.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (0 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Tylosema esculentum Marama Bean

Tylosema esculentum Marama Bean
NoodleToo wikimedia.org Public Domain


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Tylosema esculentum, commonly known as Marama Bean or Gemsbok Bean is a perennial legume native to Southern Africa. It is long-lived and grows at least 3 m. The tuber can grow at least 10 kg, which makes the plant capable of growing under harsh environmental conditions.The seeds develop in legume pods. Marama bean has no medicinal uses but is an important food crop. The seeds are cooked by roasting or boiling. Immature seeds and stems are also cooked. The seeds yield edible oil with taste and consistency comparable to that of almond oil. The tuber is baked, boiled, or roasted.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Tylosema esculentum is an evergreen Perennial growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Bauhinia burkeana (Benth.) Harv. Bauhinia esculenta Burch.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil  Root  Seed
Edible Uses: Coffee  Drink  Oil

Seed - cooked. After roasting, the seeds have a delicious, nutty flavour similar to coffee beans or roasted cashews[301 ]. They may be boiled with maize meal or ground into flour to prepare a porridge or a coffee- or cocoa-like drink[299 ]. The roasted seeds have sometimes been used as a culinary substitute for almonds[299 ]. The seeds have a protein content around 30% (approaching that of the soya bean) and an oil content around 40% (approaching that of the peanut)[301 ]. The immature seeds and stems may be eaten cooked as a vegetable or in soups[299 ]. A coffee-like beverage can be made from the seeds[317 ]. An edible oil is obtained from the seed[301 ]. Similar to almond oil in consistency and taste[299 , 301 ]. Golden-yellow, with a nutty odour and a pleasant, although slightly bitter flavour[299 ] Tuber - cooked. The sweet-tasting tuber can be baked, boiled or roasted[301 , 317 ]. Young tubers have a sweet and pleasant taste and the texture has been described as similar to that of artichoke[299 ]. Tubers older than 2 years become fibrous and bitter and are usually not eaten, but they are an important emergency source of water for humans and animals[299 ].

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.

None known

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Cosmetic  Oil

Agroforestry Uses: Marama bean may have potential as an ornamental ground cover plant[299 ]. Other Uses: The seeds and kernels yield up to 50% by weight of a golden yellow, transparent oil that can be used in cosmetic preparations[1309 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Ground Cover

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  New Crop  Staple Crop: Protein  Wild Staple Crop

A plant of the drier tropics, marama bean occurs naturally in an extreme environment with high temperatures and very low rainfall[299 ]. It can be found at elevations up to 1,500 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 22 - 30°c, but can tolerate 16 - 50°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 300 - 600mm, but tolerates 150 - 1,600mm[398 , 418 ]. The plant probably survives droughts by drawing on water stored in the tuber, which shrinks greatly in dry years[418 ]. Requires a sunny position. Grows best in a deep, loose, sandy soil[418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 7, tolerating 5 - 7.5[418 ]. An extremely drought-tolerant plant, it can grow in areas where rainfall is so slight and erratic that in some years almost no rain falls at all[418 ]. In its native habitat surface water is usually available only for 8 weeks a year, though in the fine-grained sandy soils water may remain in the root zone for as long as 2 months after a rainfall[418 ]. Unlike most members of this plant family, this species does not form nitrogen nodules on the roots[299 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • New Crop  Most new crops were important wild plants until recently, although some are the result of hybridization. They have been developed in the last few, decades. What they have in common is that they are currently cultivated by farmers. Examples include baobab, argan, and buffalo gourd.
  • Staple Crop: Protein  (16+ percent protein, 0-15 percent oil). Annuals include beans, chickpeas, lentils, cowpeas, and pigeon peas. Perennials include perennial beans, nuts, leaf protein concentrates, and edible milks.
  • 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

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed it should not be pre-soaked, though germination might be improved by scarification[299 ]. Germination starts to take place after about 9 days[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

#ng#a, /noukom, braai-boontjie, braaiboontjie, dinga, ditsidi, dshin, dshìn, dz'hi, dz'hì [seed], dzhì [seed], elandsbohne, elandsboontjie, elandsboontjie pitte, gami, ganu, gemsbok bean, gemsbokboontjie, gemsbokwortel, gemsbuck bean, gemsbuck beans, gensbokboontjies, lai, litammani [seeds], marama, marama bean, marama-bean, maramaboontjie, marami, marumama, morama, moramma nut, muraki, murama, n//ang, n//n [tuber], ndjuya, ngami, n||??gng (tuber), n||ang, n||ang [tuber], n||ning, n||ning [plant and bulb], ombanui, ombanui [seed], ombanwi, ombanwi [seed], omumbanyu [aerial plant parts], otjipiva, otjipiva [tuber], otjipiya [plant], otjipiya [tuber], ozombanui, ozombanui [seeds], ozombanyu [seeds], rama, sekophane (tuber), tamami berry, tamani berry, tammani, tammani [seeds], thamani berry, tjhng, ts''hi, tsi, tsi [seed], tsin, z?rè (seed), zare [seed], |xouba, ||naus, ||nâu, ||nâuhaib, ||nâuns [plant and fruit], ||nâus, ?ng?a.

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.

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.


Expert comment


(Burch.) A.Schreib.

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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