Baobab

Adansonia digitata

African legend has it that God got upset with the baobab and kicked it out of heaven. It smashed into the earth upside down, with its roots sticking into the air.

Baobab, Mapungubwe (1)

Due to its size, an adult baobab cannot be mistaken for any other tree. They reach heights of over 20m, with trunks sometimes more than 10m in diameter. Trees this size are estimated to be between 2000 and 4000 years old and have served as landmarks in the vast African wilderness for centuries.

Baobabs are deciduous trees, covered in dense green leaves during summer and completely devoid of their foliage in winter. The wood is very soft, and when the tree dies disintegrates quickly into a heap of fibres.

Unfortunately, elephants have a particular fondness for the baobab and especially the bark, often causing the death of the trees by their very destructive feeding habits. Several other animals, including baboons, monkeys, birds, and predators use the tree for food or shelter.

The baobab has many traditional uses: the fruit can be used to make a most refreshing cooldrink with water or milk, the seeds roasted as a coffee substitute, the roots can be used to make a kind of porridge, young leaves cooked like vegetables, and the fibrous bark, apart from being used in traditional medicine, can be woven into mats used to build shelter or as floor covering.

In South Africa, the baobab occurs naturally only in the extreme northern and eastern parts of the Limpopo Province, with magnificent specimens to be found in the Kruger and Mapungubwe National Parks.

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49 thoughts on “Baobab

  1. Pingback: Baobabs and Owls in Mopani | de Wets Wild

  2. Pingback: Olifants Rest Camp, Kruger National Park | de Wets Wild

  3. Pingback: South African Vultures | de Wets Wild

  4. mariannegv

    Hello! Everytime I hear (or read) the word baobab, I remember the book “The little prince” because it was in that story that I learned about the baobabs when I was a child. Those trees are really impressive, and I guess is astonishing be in front of them in real life. Thanks for liking my post “Containers at Firestone Winery”.
    Kind greetings,
    Marianne

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  5. The Observer

    Great post. The photo of the elephants alongside the trees gives you the scale of these enormous trees. Your photography is exceptional! Keep up the great work. I can’t wait to read your next post.

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  6. M-R

    Brilliant ! Do you perchance know how they are grown ? Is it their seeds being carried by bird ? Or do they drop their seeds nearby ? I ask because you mention the roots being edible; and as it would have to be little versions whose roots get eaten, I wondered …
    A terrific set of galleries !!!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Baobab seeds are dispersed primarily by baboons and elephants in their dung, Margaret-Rose, but they can also grown from cuttings and small trees that are pushed over will easily start growing again.

      Thanks for the kind words of encouragement, as always!

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  7. Amy

    Great information about the baobab trees. 2000 to 4000 years, Wow! It looks gigantic, when elephants are standing by the tree. Magnificent photos!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thanks for the compliment Amy!

      Yep, the baobabs are gigantic, and oh so “charismatic” (I don’t often struggle with the compulsion to hug trees, but a baobab pulls me closer every time)

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  8. colonialist

    I had one growing in my garden as a Botanical Society experiment. It was doing well, so far out of normal habitat, and then during its dormant season an overenthusiastic gardener decided it was dead and removed it. I was not amused.

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  9. 2geeks3knots

    Magnificent! How does the fruit of the baobab taste? And considering its size and inhabitants, how on earth does one gather it?? 🙂

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Unfortunately I’ve not had the pleasure of tasting the fruit, to be quite honest! I believe it is picked up off the ground after it has ripened and fallen from the tree.

      They truly are magnificent trees.

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