Continuing on to the next letter in the Lowveld ABC brings us the mightiest of mighty bushveld trees:
There are 8 species of Baobab in the world:
Adansonia digitata L. – African Baobab (western, northeastern, central & southern Africa, and in Oman and Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, Asia)
Adansonia madagascariensis Baill. – Madagascar Baobab (Madagascar)
Adansonia suarezensis H.Perrier – Suarez Baobab (Diego Suarez, Madagascar)
Adansonia za Baill. – Za Baobab (Madagascar)
What's in a Name?
|Book etching of Michel Adanson|
The generic name honors Michel Adanson, the French naturalist who first saw and described Andansonia Digitata in Senegal in 1750.
Baobabs have also been called "upside-down trees", "bottle trees" and "monkey bread trees".
There is an African fable where the baobab refuses to grow where the Creator places it. The Creator gets angry and pushes the baobab back to earth branches down and roots up. When one sees the baobab without leaves with its thick and relatively short branches sticking into the air one can see where the impression of it being upside down comes from.
The Life of a Baobab
In order to endure the seasonally arid conditions in which they live baobabs store water inside their swollen trunks (up to as much as 120,000 litres!)
It is thought that some Baobabs are thousands of years old but because their wood is a fibrous and does not produce annual growth rings, it is difficult to verify their ages without radiocarbon dating.
The bark of the baobab is smooth and shiny grey. It has the unique ability to reflect light which is a useful adaptation for the climates in which it lives.
Baobabs are deciduous meaning that they shed their leaves during the dry season.
Baobabs produce large white waxy flowers that open at night. The flowers emit a strong carrion like odour which attracts a variety of insects and also fruit bats.
The seed pods of a the baobab are approximately the size of an elongated coconut and are covered in soft velvety fuzz. Inside are the seeds which are surrounded by white powdery pulp.
Large old baobabs can create their own unique eco-systems; providing habitat and a food source for a number of inhabitants.
The South East Lowveld of Zimbabwe is home to some of the most spectacular baobab specimens anywhere. They contribute their unique and enduring presence to the laid back Lowveld atmosphere.
The Save Valley Conservancy is home to two of the largest recorded baobab trees in Africa. Both trees are featured in L J Mullins' book; Historic Trees of Zimbabwe (CBC Publishing, UK).
Mokore's Big Tree. Height 21m, girth 27.61m.
|The Big Tree of Chishakwe. Height 27m, girth 26.27m.|
Our next blog will talk about the uses of the baobab and will include our favourite baobab pulp cocktail recipe for you to try at home.