Sclerocarya birrea  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Sclerocarya birrea, the marula, (Greek σκληρός, sklērós, "hard", and κάρυον, káryon, "nut", in reference to the stone inside the fleshy fruit) is a medium-sized dioecious tree, indigenous to the miombo woodlands of Southern Africa, the Sudano-Sahelian range of West Africa, and Madagascar. The tree is a single stemmed tree with a wide spreading crown. It is characterised by a grey mottled bark. The tree grows up to 18 m tall mostly in low altitudes and open woodlands. The fruits are used in the liqueur Amarula. The distribution of this species throughout Africa and Madagascar has followed the Bantu in their migrations, as it has been an important item in their diet since time immemorial.

The fruits which ripen between December and March have a light yellow skin, with white flesh, rich in vitamin C—about eight times the amount found in an orange—are succulent, tart with a strong and distinctive flavour. Inside is a walnut-sized, thick-walled stone. These stones, when dry, expose the seeds by shedding 2 (sometimes 3) small circular plugs at one end. The seeds have a delicate nutty flavour and are much sought-after, especially by small rodents who know to gnaw exactly where the plugs are located.

Relationships: Belongs to the same family Anacardiaceae as the mango, cashew, pistachio and sumac, and is closely related to the genus Poupartia from Madagascar.

Popular culture

The alcoholic distilled beverage (maroela mampoer) made from the fruit is referenced in the stories of the South African writer Herman Charles Bosman.

The marula fruit is also eaten by various animals in Southern Africa. In the movie Animals Are Beautiful People by Jamie Uys, released in 1974, some scenes portray elephants, warthogs and monkeys becoming intoxicated from eating fermented marula fruit. Later research showed that these scenes, at least in large animals were improbable and, in all probability, staged. Elephants would need a huge amount of fermented marulas to have any effect on them, and other animals prefer the ripe fruit. The amount of water drunk by elephants each day would also dilute the effect of the fruit to such an extent that they would not be affected by it. Reports of elephants becoming intoxicated from marula fruit, however, are persistent.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sclerocarya birrea" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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