Marula (Sclerocarya birrea)

Sclerocarya birrea

Today we come to talk about a tree whose fruits are known and native to the savannas of southern Africa. Is about the marula. It is an evergreen tree with a medium size whose scientific name is Sclerocarya birrea. The oil that can be obtained from its fruits is widely used in cosmetics for the production of lipstick and some makeup artists.

In this article you will learn about the characteristics of this plant and the properties it has. Do you want to know more about her? Keep reading to know more.

Key features

Fruits of Sclerocarya birrea

The marula is characterized by having a single, rather accentuated trunk and a crown with green leaves. If developed in good condition, it can reach about 10 meters in height. In order for it to reach this size, the environmental conditions that must be met are low altitudes and open grasslands, typical of the African savanna.

In its biology we can see that it is a plant that has both male and female flowers. This is the reason why in the same orchard that this tree is planted, it will be necessary to plant both female and male specimens so that they can bear their fruits. These can be both ovoid and globose in shape. The pulp is quite juicy with a sweet taste and a well-known seed. for its use in many liqueurs that are produced by the fermentation of the juice.

Regarding the area of ​​distribution, we can see a greater concentration of marula in the town of Bantu as it is an important element in the diet of its inhabitants.

Uses of marula

Interior of the marula fruit

Now let's go on to analyze the characteristics and uses of the fruit:

  • Marula seeds are high in protein and healthy fats. By eating them, it can remind you of the taste of nuts and, therefore, it is a good food option to introduce into the diet.
  • The best known liquor that is marketed with the juice of these fruits is Amarula.
  • Marula oil is made from the kernel of the seed and is used to make cosmetics, among which we find a good antioxidant protector of the skin.
  • Tree bark it is quite useful to treat the symptoms of malaria prophylaxis.
  • It can be used to make ethanol fuel.
  • It is quite useful for people who suffer from poor digestion. To eliminate pain and symptoms, it is best to make a tea with the leaves of this tree.
  • It is not only used by humans and for commercial purposes, but it is a good source of rich food for various animals of southern Africa.
  • As a curiosity, if the fruit is fermented it can cause intoxication in animals that eat it excessively. This is due to the alcohol that is released when the fermentation process takes place.

Germination of Sclerocarya birrea

Characteristics of the fruits of the marula

So that this species can germinate from its seed needs quite a bit of heat. Therefore, the best time of year to sow it is in summer. The seed has a fairly hard shell. If we want to sow, we have to open this shell to remove the nucleus, which is what we will sow.

The first thing to do to remove the core is to use a small saw or sand the seed until it can be opened. Once we find two small openings, we must be careful with each one, because it will give rise to another, finer brown shell. This is the husk that we are going to sow and, therefore, extreme care must be taken not to damage it.

To sow it we need to introduce half of the seed on the side that is finer or more pointed upwards. Although it needs high temperatures for germination, it must always be kept moist. The ideal temperature for germination It is in the range of 28 to 35 degrees.

If this method of sowing has been done correctly, in just two weeks it will have germinated.

Requirements for cultivation

Sclerocarya birrea culture

This tree has some optimal requirements that must be met for its development and growth to be optimal. The first thing to consider is humidity. Not for the fact of spreading through the savannah does not need it. The time in your cycle where you need it most is germination. Once it is more developed, the optimum humidity is medium.

We have seen germination temperatures to be quite high, but once it has developed it is perfectly tolerant a range between 10 and 30 degrees. These temperatures are typical of a tropical climate. Of course it does not tolerate any frost, so it is more difficult to have it in climates that are not as hot as the tropical one.

Regarding the location, needs to be in full sun. You have to think that, if its natural habitat is the savannah, it is in a position with direct sun at all times. For the floor, the most recommended it is a surface capable of retaining water but with good drainage. Just like it needs water to keep it moist, it can't overdo it if it gets puddled or the soil doesn't drain well. If the substrate where we place it does not have enough aeration, it is best to add perlite, peat or sand.

It is not a plant that is demanding with watering, but as it needs medium humidity and being in places with high temperatures, it is best to water regularly every two or three days. If you want to plant outdoors and in somewhat colder climates, you have to protect them in winter during their first years of life even more than normal.

Marula oil uses

traditional uses of Sclerocarya birrea

The oil has traditionally been used in hot and cold food. It has been used for the base of frying, dressings and the manufacture of other condiments depending on the taste of each one.

As we have mentioned before, one of the most modern main uses is for creating cosmetics and skincare. It is perfect for creating skin protection creams against any type of environmental condition and for babies it is key.

As a curiosity, in many areas of Africa hygiene with marula oil was preferred over water.

I hope that with this information you will learn more about these fruits and their usefulness.


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  1.   David said

    Hello, I have several marula trees, about 3 years old and around two meters tall. I would like to know how long it takes this species to bear fruit.
    Thank you very much

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hello david.

      I do not know how many exactly, since it depends a lot on the conditions of the place and others, but about 5-7 years more or less.

      Regards!