1. The much loved Marula, Scelerocarya birrea, is an ancient tree with a history extending back at least 10,000 years. Archeological evidence shows that the marula fruit and nut-like kernels were an important food in Southern Africa in ancient times
2. The tree is deciduous, and also dioecious, which means it has a specific sex. This lead to an African belief that drinking an infusion of the bark of a male tree would lead to the birth of a boy child, or that of a female tree, to the birth of a girl child.
3. The marula fruit, which ripens from January to March, is the size of a small plum, and has 4 times more Vitamin C than an orange. It is delicious eaten fresh, or may be cooked to produce jams, juices, or alcoholic beverages. The liqueur Amarula is made from the marula fruit.
4. Many parts of the tree are used in traditional medicinal remedies. The leaves are chewed to reduce heartburn, oil from the nuts is used in skin treatments, and the bark has several uses – it contains an antihistamine, is used as a malarial prophylactic, and is also effective as a treatment for stomach upsets.
5. The fruit is a favourite of elephants. Legend has it that elephants get drunk after eating fruit which has fermented on the ground or in their stomachs. This may make for a good story – however, scientists have debunked this as a myth. Unfortunately you are unlikely to see a drunken elephant leaning against a marula tree.