The Marula is a single-stemmed tree with a wide-spreading, round crown of which the most diagnostic feature is the characteristic grey, mottled bark, peeling in disc-shaped flakes. It is a tall, deciduous tree (usually 15 m, but can grow up to 20 m). The compound leaves are grey-green in colour, but turn pale yellow prior to being shed. Denuded of leaves, the top branches appear abnormally thick and erect, like upturned fingers (digitaliform). It remains bare for several months of the year. The tree is best known for its golf ball-sized fruit, which it bears in profusion during summer.
Peels off sporadically in round discs, giving it a grey, mottled appearance.
Are borne close together arranged spirally, at the ends of twigs. 4-10 pairs of leaflets and one terminal leaf.
Male and female flowers borne on separate trees. Male flowers are more conspicuous and borne on sparse, drooping racemes. Pinkish in colour. Female flowers are smaller, red-purple and white. Borne on long peduncles.
Round to oval. Green when young, becoming butter-yellow. Thick, soft, leathery exocarp encloses white, slimy fruit pulp and a large, hard, woody stone. Seeds are nut-like, white.
|Setswana name: Morula
Botanical name: Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra
Family: Mango family (Anacardiaceae)
July to January
January to April
The Marula does not flourish in deep sand and therefore occurs on firm soil. It is widely distributed in the Okavango Delta, but isolated specimens rather than pure woodland are the norm.