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Lost Crops of Africa: Fruits, Volume III
rather scraggly appearance, but it still makes an excellent hedge. Being evergreen, it provides a year-round screen.
A fully grown marula tree is large and spreading. People genuinely like it for its shade and beauty, not to mention having the fruits to eat. When farmers clear land, these trees are often all that is left standing. Marula thrives under exceptional heat. And it tolerates some of the most inhospitable terrain known to horticulture. Its value for environmental improvement could be outstanding.
Melon may offer no particular landcare virtues except as a seasonal groundcover, also containing minerals the deep roots pull to the surface.
The living tree is especially promising for restoring deforested and damaged lands to health and productivity. It is already used in anti-desertification programs because it grows in arid and other challenging sites, and it resists savanna groundfires. Rows are also planted among forest trees as firebreaks. Tamarinds probably have notable value for sequestering carbon because people hate cutting them own, and they are so tough they typically grow for centuries. Thanks to a deep and extensive root system, they are little affected by typhoons and cyclones. They withstand city smog and coastal salt air. A dense crown of drooping branches bearing feathery foliage makes this evergreen outstanding for beautifying parks, backyards, boulevards, markets, country roads, and the rest. For these reasons and more, it holds much promise in African reforestation, especially for plantings in places where people live, work, congregate, and revere good shade.
Like its cousin, the melon, it seems to offer no particular long-term landcare benefits or hazards, though its watery fruit in the wild can provide moisture to grazing wildlife long into the thirsty season, thus sustaining the animals that shape entire landscapes.
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The above summaries have highlighted the benefits that may accrue from a broader appreciation for Africa’s cultivated fruits. The abstracts were drawn from the detailed chapters that follow, where information is also offered on obstacles to fruition (few of which seem insurmountable).