The history of the marula tree goes back thousands of years. Archaeological evidence shows the marula tree was a source of nutrition as long as ago as 10,000 years B.C. Marula, Scelerocarya birrea, subspecies caffera, is one of Africa' botanical treasures. In the Pomongwe Cave in Zimbabwe, it is estimated that 24 million marula fruits were eaten.
Not only the fruit, but also the nut, are rich in minerals and vitamins. Legends abound on the multiple uses of the tree, the bark, the leaves, fruit, nut and kernels. Most well known as the fruit that 'drives elephants mad' when dropped to the ground and lightly fermented, marula is a much-loved tree in the veld in Africa. It was a dietary mainstay in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia throughout ancient times.
The skin of the Marula fruit can be boiled to make a drink or burnt to be used as a substitute for coffee. The wood is soft and used for carving; the inner bark can be used to make rope. Archaeological sites have shown Marula fruit to be used as a food source since ancient times by Africa's tribes.
The bark can also be used to make a light brown dye. Large Saturniid Caterpillars are gathered from this tree for roasting as well as the larvae of the Cerambycid Wood Boring Beetle. Inside the flesh are one or two very small tasty nuts which are rich in protein.
Oil is used as a skin cosmetic. Their green leaves are eaten to relieve heartburn. The bark contains antihistamines and is also used for cleansing by steeping in boiling water and inhaling the steam.
A piece of bark is crushed into a pulp, mixed with cold water and swallowed in the treatment of dysentery and diarrhoea. The bark also is used as a malaria prophylactic.