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Facts About the Baobab Tree - Description, Uses and Legends

A botany graduate, Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about plants that help sustain life on planet Earth.

Adansonia digitata

Adansonia digitata

The baobab tree has a unique appearance. The tree looks as though it is planted upside down hence the name the "Upside Down" tree.

The branches of this tree are stick-like and resemble a network of roots rather than branches. This tree is also referred to as the "Upside Down tree, "Monkey Bread tree,", "Boab tree," "Boaboa tree," and "bottletree."

The baobab tree attains a maximum height of 75 feet, and its barrel-shaped trunk attains a width of more than 16 feet. The trunk of the baobab tree is thick, stout, and strong.

The baobab tree is called "The Tree of Life." It provides food, water, and shelter to local people and animals. All the parts of the baobab tree are used for different purposes. The baobab tree stores water, which is useful when water sources run dry.

Scientific Classification of the Baobab Tree

Division - Magnoliophyta

Class - Magnoliopsida

Order - Malvales

Family - Malvaceae

Genus - Adansonia

Baobab Tree - Species

Adansonia is the common name for any of the deciduous trees comprising the flowering plant genus Adansonia which is a taxa of eight extant species that are native to Madagascar, sub-Saharan Africa, and Australia.

In sub-Saharan Africa, these trees grow in hot, dry scrublands and savannas. In Madagascar, the baobabs grow in the dry deciduous forests in the western part of the island, and in Australia, they are found in the open savannah woodlands. All these regions have a short wet season and a long, dry, hot season.

Given below is the description of the African baobab tree (Adansonia digitata L.)

Baobab Tree - Adansonia digitata

Baobab Tree - Adansonia digitata

Fruit and Leaves of the Baobab (Adansonia digitata)

Fruit and Leaves of the Baobab (Adansonia digitata)

Large Flower of the Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata)

Large Flower of the Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata)

Seeds of the Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata)

Seeds of the Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata)

Description of the Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata L.)

The African baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) is one of the eight baobab species and the only one native to mainland Africa. It is a massive deciduous fruit tree that grows up to 20-10 meters in height with a trunk that has a width of 3-7 meters. It has short, stout, tortuous branches and a thin canopy.

This tree is firmly rooted in the soil by an extensive root system that grows 2 meters deep. The leaves are simple, digitally compound, dark green, and borne at the end of a 16 cm long petiole. The leaflets are 5-15 cm long and 1.5 - 7 cm broad. The baobab sheds its leaflets during the early dry season, and new leaves appear after flowering.

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After the rainy season, baobabs drop their leaves to prevent water loss through leaves. These trees bear their leaves for around 3-4 months. Most of the year, these trees are seen without leaves.

In addition, the baobab withdraws water from the fruit during the ripening process. The fruits do not have juicy flesh but have dry powdery pulp when they are fully ripe. After harvesting the fruits, the powder is sieved, packed, and sold as baobab fruit powder.

The Baobab tree flowers for the first time in about twenty years. It usually blooms in mid-summer at sunset. The flowers are white in color, large, pendulous, and have many stamens.

The pentamerous flowers are white, 25 cm in length, and 20 cm wide. They hang from stalks on pedicels that are 90 cm long.

The flowers have a strong musky smell that attracts fruit bats and other insects. The fruit bats and insects are responsible for pollination. The flower's life is short and falls off after a few hours.

The fruit of the Baobab tree is also called "monkey bread." The fruits are highly nutritious and are rich in Vitamin C.

Each fruit is large, measuring about 35 cm in length and 17 cm in diameter. It is an oblong capsule with a hard, woody covering containing pulp and black seeds. Once ripe, the fruit covering becomes brittle, and the pulp becomes chalky. The trees start producing fruits 8 -10 years after planting.

The seeds are eaten by baboons, elephants, antelopes, and monkeys.

Adansonia grandidieri

Adansonia grandieri in wetlands of  Morondava Madagascar

Adansonia grandieri in wetlands of Morondava Madagascar

The Adansonia grandidieri is the biggest and most famous baobab of Madagascar. It is also referred to as Grandidieri's baobab. This tree is endemic to Madagascar and is marked as an endangered species by the IUCN.

Uses of the Baobab Tree

  • the hollow branches provide shelter to lizards, snakes, spiders, scorpions, tree frogs, and squirrels
  • birds such as rollers, parrots, kestrels, spinetails, hornbills, and parrots nest in the hollow trunk
  • large holes in the branches and trunks are occupied by eagles, vultures, and storks
  • red-billed buffalo weavers nest mostly in this tree
  • the bark is used to make fabrics and ropes
  • leaves are used as a condiment and are also used as medicine
  • the fruit called “monkey bread” is eaten by animals and humans
  • pollen can be used as glue
  • seeds are rich in protein, iron, calcium, and phosphates
  • leaves are rich in calcium and can be cooked and eaten like spinach
  • the trunk is fibrous and can be woven into mats, ropes and can also be used to make paper
  • the trunk is also used to make beer and tea


Legends of the Baobab Tree

1. The baobab tree is one of the first trees that God created on earth, and then God created the palm tree. When the baobab saw the palm tree, it became jealous and cried out, “I want to be taller than the palm tree.”

Then the beautiful flame tree made its appearance on earth. When the baobab saw the flame tree, it became jealous and cried loudly, “I want to be more beautiful than the flame tree.”

Next, God created the fig tree. When the baobab saw the magnificent flame tree, jealousy raged within the baobab, and it prayed for more magnificence and better fruits than the fig tree.

God became very angry, uprooted the baobab, and replanted the tree upside down to keep the baobab quiet.

2. The Arabians believe that the devil uprooted the baobab tree and thrust its branches upside down in anger.

3. Bushmen believe that any person who plucks the flowers of the baobab tree will be torn apart by lions because free spirits reside in these flowers.

The world’s only bar inside a tree – The Baobab Pub.

the-baobab-tree
the-baobab-tree

Heather and Doug van Heerden discovered this tree in the late 1980s on a farm they had bought. When they saw the size of the hollow tree, they were struck with the fantastic idea of building a pub inside the tree.

This Baobab tree pub is 20 meters in height and 45 meters in width, located in Limpopo Province of South Africa. Fifteen people can comfortably sit in this.pub.

Baobab trees lining the dirt road in Madagascar

Baobab trees lining the dirt road in Madagascar

The baobab trees line the dirt road between Belon’s and Morondova in western Madagascar. It attracts travelers across the world. Due to the population growth, the forests were cleared over a period leaving just the baobab trees in the landscape.

References

Science Direct

Researchgate.net

New World Encyclopedia

© 2012 Nithya Venkat

Comments

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 28, 2013:

tillsontitan thank you, this tree is amazing in every way.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 28, 2013:

tillsontitan thank you, this tree is amazing in every way.

Mary Craig from New York on June 28, 2013:

What a fascinating tree! Imagine waiting 20 years for your flowers?

The pictures you chose are spectacular.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on July 09, 2012:

Lovely7 thank you for stopping by, Baobab's are interesting indeed.

Lovely 7 on July 08, 2012:

Hai Nithya,

Interesting and informative hub. Thanks for sharing

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on July 02, 2012:

Vinaya Ghimire thank you for stopping by. The Baobab tree is one of it's kind.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on July 01, 2012:

I did not know about baobab tree. Thanks for this informative article.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 29, 2012:

Livertis Steele thank you, a wonderful dream indeed. Am glad you found my hub of interest. Go ahead and visit when you can and experiecne the Baobab Pub, if you do share your experience with us.

Levertis Steele from Southern Clime on June 29, 2012:

Awesome hub! A pub inside of a baobab--amazing! I imagine that people wait in line to enter this one. I have yet to put my whole body inside of a tree. I have peeked inside of a few hollow oaks, but to walk inside of any tree is "a dream deferred!"

Thanks for sharing such an informative and interesting subject!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 29, 2012:

Ruchira the Baobab is amazing, am so happy that you got to know about this magnificient tree. Mother Nature is awesome. Thank you for sharing too.

RTalloni it is an amzing tree indeed, thnak you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

RTalloni on June 28, 2012:

What an amazing tree you have highlighted for us. It is an ancient wonder, and no wonder since it is 20 years before it flowers.

Ruchira from United States on June 28, 2012:

seriously, Nithya never heard of this tree until now. Mother nature sure is bountiful :)

cheers! thanks and sharing it across

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 27, 2012:

Nell Rose thank you, you should write a story based on this, am waiting to read. Thank you for the vote and sharing too.

Jkenny yes, a fantastic place to enter the world- right on!! Thank you for stopping by and for voting.

DzyMsLizzy thank you for your appreciation, you are so very kind. You must go and visit, I will try too. That pub must be amazing to see first hand. Thanks for the votes and sharing too.

Blissful writer amazing tree isn't it?? thank you for stopping by.

TrahnTheMan the tree is amazing, yes I think it could be one of the reasons for the floating flowers in Avatar - great thought:). The bar is indeed amazing. Thank you for stopping by.

TrahnTheMan from Asia, Oceania & between on June 27, 2012:

Great hub! Wow, those Adansonia grandidieri are amazing! That bar is fantastic. Apparently a boab tree was used as a jail in northern Australia. I wonder if that bushman story about the fate of those who take the boab flower was inspiration for the floating flowers of the Tree of Life in Avatar?

BlissfulWriter on June 27, 2012:

6000 years old. Wow. I like the photo with the nice reflection in the mirror. I've seen trees where a car can drive through a hole cut into it, but the is the first that I heard 15 people can sit inside tree.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on June 27, 2012:

I had to read this, because the only other time I've ever heard reference to the Baobab Tree is in the children's story, "The Little Prince."

This was a most fascinating and educational Hub! Well written and well researched. And my goodness--if I had any travel budget, I think I'd have to go visit that pub! How very unique!

Voted up, interesting, awesome, beautiful and shared.

James Kenny from Birmingham, England on June 27, 2012:

Fascinating article Vellur. I remember watching a program about the Hadza tribe in East Africa who will often use a Baobab tree as a sort of natural maternity ward. What a fantastic place to enter the world eh? Literally a child of nature. Great work. Voted up etc.

Nell Rose from England on June 27, 2012:

This is such an interesting hub, I have heard of the baobab tree, but never knew its history, or how big it is. How lovely, its home to so many different species, no wonder its called the Tree of Life! and the bar inside the tree would appeal to my fairy story mind! lol! wonderful, voted and shared, thanks!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 26, 2012:

Thank you for your appreciation, am on top of the world. Thanks for the vote and sharing too.

Imogen French thank you for stopping by and leaving a wonderful comment.

Imogen French from Southwest England on June 26, 2012:

I love these trees, they are such a fantastic and distinctive shape. You have found some fabulous pictures, and gathered a lot of interesting facts to make this a very enjoyable read.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on June 26, 2012:

Wonderful, wonderful hub - I loved reading this, you have done a fantastic job here!

Thank you, Voting up and shared

Best wishes Lesley

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 26, 2012:

snowdrops the pub looks amazing and I hope you get to go there. Thank you.

snowdrops from The Second Star to the Right on June 25, 2012:

wow!!! baobab tree looks enchanted to me. very interesting and magical.

look at the pub, i lvoe to go in there!! Oh vellur, amazing work!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 25, 2012:

Jackie Lynnley thank you for the wonderful comments and vote. You made my day :).

Mhatter99 thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Milli Thornton, it is sad that so many species are becoming endangered due to the activites of humans. Thank you for leaving a wonderful comment, it can be grown as an indoor plant. I wish I could visit the Baobab Pub too. It is located in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

Milli Thornton on June 24, 2012:

What a magical photo of Grandidieri's baobab in the wetlands of Madagascar! Truly a sight to feed the soul. I was so sad to read it's been marked as an endangered species because of encroachment by man. It looks like something out of the Garden of Eden (despite the funny legends about God and the devil ;~).

Thank you for all the amazing facts about this tree. You've made me wish I had one growing in my yard. I'd also love to know where The Baobab Pub is located. That one goes on my bucket list: drink a beer at The Baobab Pub!

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on June 24, 2012:

Another wonder under the sun I was unaware of. thank you

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on June 24, 2012:

How fantastic! Loved reading this, so well done, entertaining and enlightening. Thanks! Voting up.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 24, 2012:

Crystal Tatum thanks for stopping by and your appreciation. Thank you for the vote too.

teaches12345 thank you, Baobabs are beautiful and majestic trees. I wish I could visit the pub too. Thank you for the vote, very much appreciated.

Dianna Mendez on June 24, 2012:

What a fascinating read on this tree. I found it very interesting and learned lots. I would love to see that unique bar. The tree is so beautiful in the photo. It does have a lot of benefits for mankind. Voted up and interesting.

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on June 24, 2012:

Awesome! I've never heard of this beautiful tree, but I enjoyed learning about it. Voted up.

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