Sclerocarya birrea

Botanical name

Sclerocarya birrea (SA No 360)

Other names

Marula; maroela (Afrikaans), morula (Tswana)




Large upright tree, often 12 to 15 m with a broad and rounded crown, occasionally up to beyond 25 m

Description of stem

Grey, flaking characteristically in round patches, lower branches tend to disappear, showing a straight bare trunk; young branchlets end abruptly without attenuating

Description of leaves

Composite, clustered towards the end of branches, deciduous, imparipinnate (composite leaf has a terminal leaflet), 3 to 7 pairs of variable, elliptical and glabrous leaflets; green above, lighter below; usually only serrated when young, otherwise entire

Description of flowers

Dioecious, small yellow petals, male flowers in large clusters, female ones single or few together

Description of seed/fruit

Fleshy green drupe on tree, falling off in autumn and turning light yellow on the ground; three seeds contained in the hard kernel, the fleshy pulp highly nutritious and sought after by humans and animals

Description of roots




Propagation and cultivation

From seed or truncheons, water when young, full sun


Tender to frost, drought resistant once established


Fruits eaten by humans and many animals; made into  a jelly and alcoholic drinks, even commercially, such as the Amarula liqueur; the seeds are also eaten; the wood is used for furniture, household utensils and flooring; the bark has been used as a dye and a medicine for dysentry; planted successfully as a crop plant in the Negev Desert; browsed by herbivores such as elephants and giraffes

Ecological rarity Not threatened
Pests and     diseases  
Location Woodland and bushveld in warm areas
Distribution (SA provinces) North West; Gauteng; Limpopo; Mpumalanga; Kwazulu-Natal
Country South Africa; Botswana; Namibia; Zimbabwe; Swaziland; Mozambique; Zambia; Malawi
Info Palgrave
Category: Trees