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- Author or Editor: Mack Moyo x
Marula [Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Hochst. subsp. caffra (Sond.) Kokwaro (Anacardiaceae)] is used in many African countries as a food crop and is also in demand for industrial purposes. The fruit pulp has high vitamin C levels and the nuts have a high protein and oil content. The fruit pulp is commercially used in the production of an alcoholic beverage (Amarula Cream) and the oil is gaining importance in the cosmetic industry. Although attempts are being made to domesticate this high-value indigenous tree, there is very limited information available on aspects of seed germination. Our study investigated the role of light, temperature, cold stratification, and after-ripening on seed germination of S. birrea. Temperatures between 25 and 35 °C favored germination of opercula-removed seeds under continuous dark conditions. White light completely inhibited seed germination with the inhibitory effect being reversed when seeds were transferred to dark conditions. This photoinhibitory effect on opercula-removed seeds was lost after 12 months of seed storage at room temperature in the dark. Cold stratification (5 °C) of intact seeds for 14 days significantly improved germination (65%) as compared with nonstratified seeds (32%). Pregermination treatments (acid scarification, boiling water, dry heat, soaking, and plant growth regulators) of S. birrea seeds did not promote germination. Seeds of S. birrea can be considered orthodox because they tolerated desiccation without significant loss of viability. Both intact and opercula-removed seeds readily imbibe water suggesting physiological rather than physical dormancy. The highest germination percentage was recorded under constant dark conditions at 25 °C for opercula-removed seeds exposed to an after-ripening period of 12 months. This study indicates that after-ripening, light conditions, and cold stratification are critical factors for germination of S. birrea seeds.