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An Ode to The Baobab

“Tree of Life”

Avenue of the Baobabs, Morondava, Madagascar © Shreekar P/ Unsplash

No tree symbolises Africa quite like the mighty Baobab. An icon of the African continent it features in folktales and cultural practices, it provides shelter and food for many living creatures and is widely recognised as the ‘Tree of Life.’ Get to know a bit more about this remarkable tree.

  • The Boabab is one of the oldest living tree species on earth, believed to be 200 million years old.
  • There are nine species of Baobab spread throughout Madagascar, Africa, as well as parts of Arabia and Australia. Of the nine species, six are found in Madagascar.

Baobab on Kubu Island. © Ben McRae —

  • Baobabs can live for up to 5000 years and grow to 30 meters high.
  • Baobabs are some of the most significant trees in the world, with circumferences of up to 50 meters.
  • Old Baobabs create their own ecosystem supporting the life of countless creatures including birds, mammals, insects, and reptiles, not to mention humans. Some trees are so large they have been used as storage huts, shops, post offices and even prisons!

An African elephant and Baobab in Ruaha National Park. Tanzania © Roger de la Harpe —

  • With bare leaves in winter and branches spreading out like roots, the tree often looks like it is upside and is sometimes called the ‘Upside-Down Tree.’
  • Baobabs are some of the hardiest trees in the world withstanding severe drought as well as having their bark severely stripped by elephant. They can store up to 120 000 litres of water in their trunk.

Baobab Avenue, Madagascar. © Christian leynaud —

  • Bats pollinate baobab flowers at night.
  • The Baobab fruit is considered extremely nutritious with high vitamin C and antioxidants as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. It is said to provide energy, boost immunity, improve digestive health with its probiotic properties as well as improve skin texture.

Monkey Bread (Adansonia digitata) / Baobab Fruit © Diversity Studio —

  • Fruit can be sucked or soaked to make a refreshing drink. It can be roasted to make coffee.
  • Its bark is used in making rope and clothing and seeds are ground into oil for beauty products.