Marula - medicine tree of the Lowveld
Sclerocarya birrea Afrikaans: Maroela
The marula tree is one of the most highly valued of all indigenous trees of the region, a popularity that has led to protection all over Africa.
The fruits have a rich scent and can be made into an alcoholic beverage of great potency. It renders an excellent conserve as well as an amber-coloured jelly, all of which have considerable nutritional value. The pulp has four times as much vitamin C as orange juice.
Game animals feed eagerly on the fruits, possibly becoming intoxicated in the process from the over-ripe fermenting windfalls. Each fruit has a single , had woody stone inside which are two or three seeds containing an oil-rich protein. These nuts area much sought after delicacy by local people who eat them raw or cooked with porridge.
The tree plays an important role in the rural beliefs and traditional medicine. For example, the bark, which has an astringent taste, is widely used in dysentery and diarrhoea and is also believed to prevent malaria.
Among the Vhavenda people there is also the belief that the powered bark can determine the sex of an unborn child: if a pregnant woman desires a girl, she will take preparation from a female tree and if a boy, then from a male specimen.
Elephants are partial to the marula fruit and are often seen shaking a tree to dislodge their sweet reward. The tree also benefits, however, as passing through the elephants’ digestive system helps to open the opercula, or the hard “lids” of the stone of the fruit, making germination easier. nfortunately elephants are also fond of the bark and will strip or “ debark” a tree leaving it to die.
The beautiful green African moon moth in its larval stage feeds on the marula trees.
Bushveld Trees: Malcom Funston
Making the most of Indegenous Trees : Fanie & Julye Venter
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