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University of Johannesburg (2021)

The ethnobotany of marula (Sclerocarya birrea, Anacardiaceae) in South Africa

Marubini Jessica Mutuwa

Titre : The ethnobotany of marula (Sclerocarya birrea, Anacardiaceae) in South Africa

Auteur : Marubini Jessica Mutuwa

Université de soutenance : University of Johannesburg

Grade : Master of Science (MS) in Botany 2021

Sclerocarya birrea, generally known as the marula tree (mufula in the Venḓa language), is a plant native to Africa and Madagascar traditionally used as a source of food, medicine, cosmetics and other products. The main aim of this study was to write a detailed literature review of marula and to document ethnobotanical knowledge within the distribution area of marula in South Africa. This study also aimed to record and preserve traditional knowledge about the uses of Sclerocarya birrea and to compare different cultures and regions. Despite the success in commercialization of marula food products and cosmetics within the African continent, these products are not yet traded to any extent around the globe. This contrasts with the success of Amarula, the cream liqueur which has made the amarula fruit famous throughout the world. The marketing success of Amarula has undoubtedly created a useful platform for the introduction of food and cosmetic products to all parts of the world. However, for international trade to be a success, a scientific dossier is required that can be used in the complicated process of gaining official approval from regulatory authorities in the European Union, United States of America, and other parts of the world. The literature review and ethnobotanical data recorded in this study can be used in the development of a comprehensive scientific dossier on marula.

The literature was collected from various data sources including scientific papers, books, dissertations, technical reports and internet websites. The literature was classified into one or more of 26 categories : morphology, molecular phylogeny, taxonomy, anatomy, phytochemistry, pharmacology (anti-bacterial activity, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant activity), toxicity, history and naming, fossil record, ecology, role in ecosystem, mode of pollination, phenotypic and genetic variation, management and genetic resources, growth rates, densities, male : female ratios, cultivation, net harvest per season, pests and diseases, vernacular and common names, medicinal uses, food uses, other uses, commercial products and marketing. Of these, four categories yielded the largest number of references : Food uses – 107, Phytochemistry – 66, Other uses (i.e., not related to food or medicine) – 56 and Medicinal uses – 54.

The literature study revealed a rapidly increasing frequency of publications, probably due to the current popularity of marula products and its anticipated role to provide a source of income in both the rural and formal sectors of the South African and African economy. The ancient and contemporary history of marula and its uses (including the relatively recent use in distilling mampoer) are poorly documented. Although there are many publications on the chemistry of marula leaves, fruits and seeds, there is a need for variation studies to compare samples from individual trees and provenances across the African continent. Such information will be valuable in the process of selecting superior genotypes and clones for commercial crop and product development. Studies of chemical variation in the fruits and nuts should move from exploratory phytochemical assays to more sophisticated studies using LC-MS, so that the chemical constituents can be properly identified and quantified. This level of resolution is required, not only to improve our understanding of chemical variation in the genus, but also to develop reliable quality control methods for high quality marula products.


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Page publiée le 28 janvier 2023