The Baobab


Adansonia digitata

This tree has fascinated me from since I can remember.  As a small child I did not see them often because they only occur in the northern reaches of our country. They seemed to me at the time to be enchanted.

The first story I heard as a youngster about the baobab was this one – a traditional tribal story about an upside down tree.  It really does look like it has its roots in the air.  Because we always visited this area in the winter when the weather is more bearable, I never saw a baobab with leaves – I remember asking my mother if they were all dead – she even had to ask a ranger in the area if they ever got leaves.


One holiday at the seaside (nowhere near any baobabs) I met a young girl from Zimbabwe who had a couple of baobab seed pods with her – their family ate the seeds like sweets and I was introduced to the amazing taste.

The fruit is nutritious possibly having more vitamin C than oranges and exceeding the calcium content of cow’s milk and can be used to produce cream of tartar.

They now grow all around us, with some really very old, very big specimens nearby.  On our property I have only seen one that is quite large, in the region of  200 years old I think. The others are young and were most likely planted by humans.  Around our cottages there are about five trees, not older than 30 – mere seedlings! 


The above baobab is an example of a 5-year-old specimen.  Look at this little one below

Haha – photo stolen from the Beans friend – sue me 🙂

This one is actually 500 years old and can be seen at the Upside-down Restaurant nearby.  There is also another HUGE baobab there.  The owners have had the trees carbon dated and the older tree is approximately 2000 years old.  Because baobab trees don’t have rings you can’t use that method of dating.

One of the small baobabs at home is right outside our cottage door. I keep thinking that in 400 years time no one will be able to get into the door – something I don’t think I should worry about really.

Baobabs do not propagate well in nature – with the correct amount of heat, rain and humidity occurring only once every 50 years or so.  That is why there are not too many of them around.  Now days most of the young baobabs around here have been planted by man.

The largest baobab on the world is found near Tzaneen, about  100 km’s from home.  It is famous and has a pub/bar built inside it.

This one only has a loo.

Here is some more interesting information about the tree.


Water storage

Baobabs store water inside the swollen trunk (up to 120,000 litres) to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region.


The leaves are commonly used as a leaf vegetable throughout the area of mainland African distribution, including Malawi, Zimbabwe, and the Sahel. They are eaten both fresh and as a dry powder. In Nigeria, the leaves are locally known as kuka, and are used to make kuka soup.

The fruit is also known as “sour gourd” or “monkey’s bread”, the dry fruit pulp separated from seeds and fibers is eaten directly or mixed into porridge or milk. In Malawi, the fruit pulp is used to make a nutrient-rich juice.

The fruit can be used to produce cream of tartar. In various parts of East Africa, the dry fruit pulp is covered in sugary coating (usually with red coloring) and sold in packages as a sweet and sour candy called “ubuyu”.

The seeds are mostly used as a thickener for soups, but may also be fermented into a seasoning, roasted for direct consumption, or pounded to extract vegetable oil. The tree also provides a source of fiber, dye, and fuel.

Indigenous Australians used baobabs as a source of water and food, and used leaves medicinally. They also painted and carved the outside of the fruits and wore them as ornaments. A very large, hollow baobab south of Derby, Western Australia was used in the 1890s as a prison for Aboriginal convicts on their way to Derby for sentencing. The Boab Prison Tree still stands and is now a tourist attraction.

This tree still enchants me – if I was a tree hugger, this would be the tree that I hug – it just has that special feeling.

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