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The Baobab Tree (the Tree of Life) Facts and Myths

the-baobab-tree-the-tree-of-life-facts-and-myths

The baobab tree is one of the most economically important tree in the world, although this tree with too many economic values, may be a strange tree among many nations, even some countries in Africa were it exists in large numbers, many people are still ignorant of the great benefits of this tree of life (The baobab tree) to the society. The baobab tree which its scientific name is Adansonia is named after Michel Adanson, a French botanist and explorer who first described the tree in Senegal on his first scientific expedition in 1750. It was formally classified into nine species, but the last one was later disregarded as different species. Six among the eight species originated from Madagascar, one is said to be native to the mainland Africa (western, northeastern, central and southern Africa) but also present in Madagascar, while the other is said to be native to Australia. Although there may be name differences among the species, there is little or no difference among them in terms of outlook and characteristics. The mainland African specie (Adansonia digitata) is recognized as the specie that can grow to the largest size and oldest age. The baobab tree is also known as, the tree of life, upside down tree, monkey bread tree and other names in different places. Most of these different names also are connected with different folklores.

One among the many significant features of baobab tree is its ability to absorb and store waters in its trunks during the rainy season, to be used during the dry season, this perhaps is the reason why it is being referred to as the tree of life, because during the dry season, while other plants are struggling to get water for survival, the baobab tree will be blossoming and fruitful, kudos to its water reservation ability. Moreover it also supplies water to animals and other users during this period of water scarcity. Although this stored water may not be good enough for human consumption, yet it plays some vital roles in human and animal survival during the scarcity period.

Another unique thing about the baobab is the fruit, it does not need any artificial preservative before it can be stored, once the greenish velvet like pod turns brownish, the fruit therein becomes little moist-like or dry and can remain same for over three years without an addition of artificial preservative. The fruits are connected to the branches of the tree through a long tiny stems. This tiny stems which falls with the fruit when matured, makes it looks somehow like a dead rat when it falls, with the long stem resembling the tail while the fruit itself looks more like the rat. The baobab tree is mostly communally or family owned, as no single individual can claim ownership. The fruit of baobab is called monkey bread or cream of tartar and it’s nutritious. The fruit is usually large and oval/round in structure. It can take up to 15 to 20 years for a baobab tree to start bearing fruit, that discourages the farmers from engaging in active cultivation of the tree, but modern research has shown that by grafting the branches of fruiting trees to seeding, the tree can bear fruits in 5years time. Baobab tree can also live up to 3000 years. It can grow up to 30metres in height and also in circumference. The older it gets, the bigger the circumference and the height becomes.

The baobab tree is very useful in so many ways, from the root of its young ones to the leaves; every part of the tree is very useful. Another important fact about this tree is the unique fruiting process, the baobab tree hardly drops its fruits prematurely; this special quality added to the numerous beautiful qualities and benefits of this tree. Although the flowers of baobab tree which normally opens in the midnight, presents beautiful whitish and spotted brownish colors in the morning, presenting admirable and beautiful colors of nature, the smell of this beautiful flowers does not justify the beauty of its flowers as they smell very stinky and worsens as the evening comes. The bats dine and enjoy the beauty of these flowers in the night and in returns pollinate the flowers. These flowers also dies within 24hours giving way for the new velvet like greenish, oval/round shaped fruits to appear.

The baobab tree holds some significant symbols in the African tradition and belief. It serves as road map in so many communities across Africa, as one will often hear things like, “ His house is just few meters from that baobab tree” and things like that. The baobab tree also serves as (Bantaba) a place of relaxation for the community and it also serves as a place where folklores are passed to generations. The leaves of baobab which looks very greenish during the rainy season, falls during the dry season, but it never stops the tree from bearing fruits during the dry season. The baobab tree especially the mainland specie (Adansonia digitata) does not have any special season for fruiting; it bears fruits at all times. Some village markets are also sited under baobab trees. Individuals also schedule appointments under the baobab tree as one will often see people especially of opposite sex strengthening their relationships under the tree mostly in the evening hours. The baobab tree also serves as a bus stop in some places. There are also times you see some mystical identifiable evidences within the tree vicinity which suggest that the baobab tree may be significant in some local beliefs, as some signs of ritual acts are sometimes present either as objects or animals nailed, killed or dropped on the tree. The trunks of big baobab tree can store up to 3000 litters of water serving birds and other animals during the dry season. There are also other reports that this baobab trunk has served various purposes in different places and time. In some places people have used the trunk as a prison, some as a store, a chapel and even as a house.

Almost every part of the baobab tree is important either to human, animals or birds. The tree itself is a safe and beautiful relaxation zone for birds and other animals that climbs. Its ability to store water also adds to its benefits to birds and animals. The leaves of baobab trees are edible, said to be very rich in iron, can be eaten or used as vegetable. The root of the young tree is also edible, as it can be eaten like carrot. This edible nature of the roots is also likely to have connection with its name as. ‘’the upside down tree” as this short mythical story reveal. “There was a time in the animal kingdom pre the creation of man, that there came a serious famine in the animal kingdom, then the trees where the only source of food for the animals, all the animals set out in search for food, as they got closer to one tree which is today called the baobab tree, they began to perceive the presence of an edible substance, they searched and marched round the young baobab tree, but found nothing they can eat, yet the aroma of the edible continued to be stronger, the squirrel then began to create a hole round the tree, the aroma continued to be stronger hence encouraging the squirrel to continue with the hole, as it cut one of the roots, it tasted nice and delicious, then all the animals joined the squirrel until the young tree collapsed, so that day they returned to their kingdom happily and satisfied, but the young baobab was sad and devastated. After some days the baobab tree got to its feet again, but concluded that it will always wither/ drop its leaves during the dry season/ season of scarcity, so as to make its branches take the look of its roots and that it will also make its flowers smell foul, perhaps that will prevent the animals from attacking. So the next time the animals went, they were not able to perceive the same sweet aroma, the floor were filled with the foul flowers of the baobab tree, they looked up and thought that the tree has turned upside down to prevent them from eating the roots. It was then that some animals began to climb trees, but those that climbed were discouraged, because they discovered that it was no longer edible as like what they met the first time. It was also from that day that all the animals began to use their nose instead of their eyes or mouth to justify an edible substance’’ (the upside down tree).

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The seeds can also be eaten or roasted to substitute coffee; the seed can also be processed to extract the oil which is also edible and also a very important beauty ingredient used in producing beauty products. The whitish/creamy fruits which are very nutritious and high in vitamin c can be processed into juice and can also be useful in beer production, through fermentation. The baobab juice can be processed locally following the procedure below, first break the brownish shell to get the whitish/creamy coloured fruit, which looks little moisture-like or dry. This fruits are also surrounded by some root like veins, the fruits are then soaked and filtered to remove the roots and the seeds, after which will be left with the whitish/ creamy juice, then sugar and milk can be added to make it more delicious, it can also be refrigerated. The baobab juice as being processed locally tastes so delicious and can be especially useful in restoring strength during the sunny day or after the day’s activities. The fruits can also be sucked, as it melts when placed in the mouth. Products such as ropes and baskets can be produced from the barks. Today a lot of homes in Africa, especially in West Africa are earning their living through the products of the baobab tree, especially in the area of local juice production. Government should also step to encourage this local production and also help in guidelines to avoid any form of contamination that may endanger lives. Such efforts will help in making the business of baobab safer, and more lucrative.

Below are the eight recognized species/classifications of baobab tree.

(1) Adansonia digitata: this specie is said to be native to mainland Africa, it is also present in Madagascar.

(2) Adansonia gregorri: native to northwestern Australia.

(3)Adansonia grandidieri: native to Madagascar

(4)Adansonia rubrostipa: native to Madagascar

(5)Adansonia perrieri: native to Madagascar

(6)Adansonia za: native to Madagascar

(7)Adansonia suarezensis: native to Madagascar

(8)Adansonia Madagascariensis: native to Madagascar

One factor that hinders the harvesting of baobab fruits is the height and the circumference of the trees, which makes it difficult for human to climb. It is a sad thing that to note that no strong market or awareness has been effectively raised to promote the benefits of baobab tree, this is contributing to its underutilization and wastage. If properly promoted, the baobab tree can promote living conditions among many African countries and can also create good trade relationship between Africa and the rest of the world, hence aiding development and cooperation among countries involved. It will also help in cutting down wastage of the fruits and will also enable the introduction of more products of benefit to humanity.

As researchers continues to explore on the qualities and benefits of this tree to humanity, hopes are high that one day the world will come up with supports that will help in boosting the effective utilization of these wonderful benefits of baobab tree to humanity, until then efforts must continue in creating awareness about the potentials of this great gift of nature to mankind.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Fierce Manson

Comments

Fierce Manson (author) from Atlanta on October 05, 2020:

Hi Audrey! Thank you so much for taking the time to read the article and comment, I agree with you the Baobab tree is interest, and fascinating to me.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on October 03, 2020:

The Baobab tree is interesting. Thank you for sharing this information. Fascinating that the pods need no preservatives for storing.