I was at a wedding over the weekend, and on the table was a little card about the marula tree and how the Zulu people believe it’s linked to fertility – the wedding venue was called ‘Under the Marula Tree’, hence the little info card. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but prior to reading that card my knowledge of this great tree was limited to how good the fruit tasted ground up and made into a liqueur! So I thought it was maybe time that I did a bit of reading up on the famous marula tree (also known as Sclerocarya birrea in Greek and amaganu in Zulu).
It turns out that this is one important tree, with a multitude of uses. It seems that every part of it – bark, fruit, seeds, leaves – can be used for either healing an ailment (the bark is used as both a treatment and a prophylaxis for malaria), providing nutrients (the fruit has about eight times the amount of vitamin c of that found in an orange), or believe it or not, determining the sex of a baby! The marula tree is dioecious, meaning that there are separate male and female trees – the Venda believe that a preparation of powdered bark from a female tree will produce a baby girl, while that of a male tree will deliver a baby boy. If a child of the opposite gender is born, that child is deemed to be very special as it was able to defy the spirits.
And finally we have the link with our local Zulu custom. The Zulus refer to the marula as the ‘marriage tree’. It is believed to be a symbol of fertility: tradition has it that a woman is more likely to become pregnant after eating the fruit of the marula. It is also used in a cleansing ritual before marriage.
So the next time you take a sip of Amarula, just think how amazing the tree that produced your delicious liqueur is – it can help relieve the sting of a snake bite, while helping you to fall pregnant at the same time!
Click here to read more interesting beliefs surrounding the grand marula tree.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org