Monday, February 20, 2012

Historical Trees - The Magical Marula

The historical Marula tree (Scelerocarya birrea subs. Caffera) is a true African treasure. Archaeological evidence has shown that in ancient times, as far back as 10,000 BC, the Marula was an important nutritional mainstay in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

The largest known Marula tree in the world was identified by Professor Lucas ‘Kas’ Holtzhausen. This magnificent male Marula tree is situated near Punda Maria in the Kruger National Park and has a trunk circumference of 4,2 metres.

Professor ‘Kas’ is a pioneer in Marula research and has identified numerous interesting facts about this African botanical treasure. Some of these include his discovery that Marula oil is 48 times more stable than the best quality olive oil and contains a natural preservative making it ideal for cosmetic and perfume manufacture. The fruit is at least 4 times higher in vitamin C than oranges and the skin of the fruit makes an excellent coffee substitute when roasted. The nuts are extremely high in protein and the leaves can be eaten to relieve heartburn while the bark contains an antihistamine.

Tribes such as the Venda and the Tonga people refer to the Marula as ‘The Marriage Tree’ for it is regarded as a symbol of fertility and is used in a cleansing ritual prior to marriage. The Venda people also believe that the tree can determine the gender of an unborn baby. The tree is dioecious, and traditional belief is that taking an infusion made from the bark of a female tree will produce a female child and an infusion from the bark of a male tree will produce a male child. If a child of the opposite gender is born however, that child is deemed to be very special as it was able to defy the spirits.

Currently, the most well known product derived from the Marula tree is Amarula which is recognised in 100 countries worldwide and was awarded the Worldwide Best Liqueur at the 2007 International Wine and Spirit Competition in London.

 Meanwhile, Professor ‘Kas’ continues his valuable research, developing Marula cultivars that are making a significant contribution to the establishment of an internationally recognised Marula industry.

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