African Baobab Tree

Latin Name: Adansonia Digitata, Genus: Adansonia

The African baobab tree, also called the monkey-bread tree and upside-down tree, is a large tree that is very common in much of the African continent, on the hot, dry savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. It has also been introduced to other places like Asia and Australia, but this was through intentional plantation and not natural dispersal. There are 8 species of baobab.

  • Adansonia digitata: African baobab, Africa
  • Adansonia grandidieri Baill, West central Madagascar
  • Adansonia gregorii, North Western Australia
  • Adansonia madagascariensis, northwest and north Madagascar
  • Adansonia perrieriAdansonia perrieri, Northern Madagascar
  • Adansonia rubrostipa, Central South Madagascar
  • Adansonia suarezensis, Northern Madagascar
  • Adansonia zaAdansonia za, Western South Madagascar

Baobabs are large trees, often reaching between 5 and 25 meters tall. They are also bulbous and can grow to a diameter of 10 to 14 meters. They are very common features of the African landscape, and are often used as markers, since they usually mark a source of water, and they produce nourishment in the shape of baobab fruit.

African Baobab Tree

How Much Water can a Baobab Store?

The broad baobab, bulges around the girth of its trunk to store water. It can store 120,000 litres or 32,000 gallons of water to get through dry periods.

Upside Down Tree

The name upside-down tree from the appearance of the tree’s branches, which have no leaves during the eight month dry season. Branches of the ‘upside down’ leviathan, look like roots, and the trunk a taproot, so many say it looks like a tree that has been turned upside down. Actual roots of the African baobab tree are very extensive, and can span an area larger than the tree’s height. In that way they can absorb water over a larger disatance making them very good at surviving in dry climates.

Fruit and Flowers

During the early summer in Africa, baobabs bear very heavy white flowers. These flowers are large, about 12 cm across, and only stay open for one night. Within 24 hours, they drop off of the tree. Baobab flowers are mostly pollinated by fruit bats, who can also help in spreading the seeds. Seeds of this great giant, have hard shells, so they can travel long distances without being damaged, which helps the tree spread over large areas.

The tree also grows fruits, which can be eaten and are used in many African dishes. Baobab’s fruit is filled with a pulp that dries and hardens, then falls into chunks that look like powdery bread; hence the name monkey-bread tree. Baobab fruits are a traditional cuisine in Africa, but are not commonly known in other places.

Baobab Tree
Baobab Tree Dwarfs Elephants

Leaves are often used as relish or in soups. Leaves can be used in a similar way to spinach. Oil extracted from the seeds is also used in baking, though not as regularly; it is more sought after for face creams; the oil has antioxidants, vitamins A & E, and omega fatty acids which are used in anti aging treatments.

Locals rightly believe he tree’s fruits and leaves contain highly beneficial nutrients and minerals, and that they are good for health. Some locals even believe that pregnant women who live near baobabs will have healthier babies. Baobab powder is considered a, ‘super fruit,’ and can be added to many sweet dishes from muffins to yogurts .

Fantastic Facts About The Baobab

The African baobab tree can live to be incredibly old. Most estimate that it can live to around 1,500 years, though there have been specimens that were more than 3,500 years old. When the tree reaches 1000 years its cavity becomes larger allowing animals or humans to dwell inside. It is possible that changes in climate and greenhouse gases are causing the trees to have shorter lifespans. This time scale is refuted in South Africa where the Sundown Baobab Tree has been turned into a bar and carbon dated to over 6000 years old.

The Baobab Tree bar offers an indoor space boasting 13-foot-high ceilings and the ability to comfortably accommodate fifteen people at a time.

Owners, Doug and Heather van Heerden,

Conservation status: African baobab trees have not yet been given a conservation status. In South Africa they are a protected plant, and many African cultures revere them, and even tell legends about the upside down tree. however human encroachment onto their habitat is diminishing the places they can grow.

Changes in rain fall patterns due to climate change means that during the precious and traditional rainy periods, baobabs are not getting enough water to store, which researchers claim are killing off baobabs. One in eight could become extinct. Some good news is that the A. grandidieri – the largest and most populous baobab species, is thriving. Researchers ‘counted an estimated one million trees with a distribution of more than 26,000 square kilometers.’

Baobabs in Literature

And just then appearing like a giant monitor lizard, green and fearful emerging from its grassy nest, stood a vast tree, on a vast hill. A wide canopy of sharp and bustling leaves. Great branches of wood gnarled and bark, fear stained as if the monitor had eyed an approaching predator: an adversary, indomitable and savage. Its canopy, fulsome and spritely bestowed a declaration, life still very much existed in the old giant. Could it be the great baobab? He had never seen a tree wider.

E.G Price, The Zambezi Allies
A Bar in a Baobab Tree, South Africa

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