Martin Heigan

Facts about Baobabs


Some of Mother Nature’s oldest and funniest-looking trees, baobabs grow in low-lying areas in Africa, Australia and Madagascar. Capable of living for thousands of years, these deciduous trees consist of relatively sparse canopies atop ginormous creased trunks.

Here are a few things you may or may not know about Baobabs:

Baobabs belong to the genus Adansonia. The name Adansonia commemorates the French surgeon Michel Adanson (1727-1806).

Baobabs

There are nine species of baobab trees. Two are native to the African continent and the Arabian Peninsula, six are native to Madagascar, and one is native to Australia.

These are:
• Adansonia digitata
• Adansonia grandidieri
• Adansonia gregorii
• Adansonia kilima
• Adansonia madagascariensis
• Adansonia perrieri
• Adansonia rubrostipa
• Adansonia suarezensis
• Adansonia za

Baobabs Africa

Adansonia digitata, native to the African continent, is the most widespread of all baobab species.

Baobabs reach heights of 5 to 30m and have trunks 7 to 11m in diameter. As an adaption to harsh drought conditioned, the trunks can hold up to 120,000 litres of water.

The Sagole Baobab – in the Limpopo Province – is recorded as being the biggest tree in South Africa with a stem diameter of 10.47m, a height of 22m and a crown spread of 38.2m.

Baobab Africa

Baobabs are deciduous, losing their leaves in the dry season, and remaining leafless for nine months of the year.

Baobab trees have an incredible lifespan. Carbon dating indicates that they may live to be 3,000 years old.

The baobab is the national tree of Madagascar.

Baobabs Madagascar

Other names for the baobab tree include upside-down tree, boab, boaboa, bottle tree, dead-rat tree and monkey bread tree. The baobab tree is also rightfully known as the tree of life; it provides shelter, clothing, food, and water for the animal and human inhabitants worldwide.

Adansonia Digitata

Adansonia digitata, native to the African mainland, is the most widespread of all baobab species. The species name digitata, meaning hand-like, is in reference to the shape of the leaves.

This baobabs fruits are large pods known as ‘monkey bread’ or ‘cream of tartar fruit’, and are rich in vitamin C. The fruit has a velvety shell, weighs about 1.5km, and is approximately the size of a coconut. It has an acidic flavour.

Cream of tartar was originally produced from the baobab seed pulp, but is now mainly sourced as a by-product from the wine-making process. Cream of tartar acts as a leavening agent in baking, stabilizes egg whites, and creates creamier frostings, syrups or icings.

Facts about Baobabs

During the early summer the tree bears very large, heavy, white flowers. These are 12 cm across and open to bloom during the late afternoon. The pendulous, sweet-smelling flowers have a very large number of stamens. The flowers fall within 24 hours, turning brown. Pollination by fruit bats takes place at night.

Elephants like to eat the bark of the baobab during the dry season to obtain moisture from the trunks The Baobab does not suffer from ring barking and can regrow bark if damaged by elephants.

Baobabs in Africa

Along the Zambezi River, some tribes believe that the baobab were upright and too proud, considering itself better than the lesser trees. The gods became angry and decided to teach the baobab humility. They uprooted it and threw it back into the ground upside-down. This is a fascinating reasoning behind the baobabs’ spindly branches and strange appearance.

Like what you’ve read? Keep an eye on our regularly updated blog for more interesting facts about bushlife in Africa.

Flickr Image Credits:
Martin Heigan
Rod Waddington
Alex Berger
Matthew and Heather
Christophe André
jbdodane
Michael Jansen