Boabab

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Adansonia digitata – Baobab

Family: Adansonia digitata

Common names

  • African baobab
  • Dead-rat-tree
  • Monkey-bread-tree
  • Cream of Tartar tree
  • Lemonade tree
  • Kremetartboom
  • Isimuku
  • UmShimulu
  • IisiMuhu
  • Ximuwu
  • Mowana
  • Muvhuyu

Description

Some large individuals live to well over a thousand years of age. All baobab trees are deciduous, losing their leaves in the dry season, and remains leafless for nine months of the year.

They are in fact known both for their height and trunk’s girth. The trunk tends to be bottle-shaped and can reach a diameter of 10–14 m (33–46 ft).The span of the roots actually exceed the tree’s height, a factor that enables it to survive in a dry climate. Many consider the tree to be “upside-down” due to the trunk likeness to a taproot and the branches akin to finer capillary roots. The trunk is smooth and shiny and can range from being reddish brown to grey. The branches are thick and wide and very stout compared to the trunk.

During the early summer (October to December in southern hemisphere) the tree bears very large, heavy, white flowers. These are 12 cm across and open during the late afternoon to stay open for one night.The pendulous, showy flowers have a very large number of stamens. They have a sweet scent but later emit a carrion smell, especially when they turn brown and fall after 24 hours. The flowers have 5 petals that are leathery and hairy on the inside.

The fruit are large, egg-shaped capsules.They are filled with pulp that dries, hardens, and falls to pieces which look like chunks of powdery, dry bread. The seeds are hard, black and kidney-shaped.

Distribution

The baobab tree is found in areas of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and other tropical African countries where suitable habitat occurs. It is restricted to hot, dry woodland on stoney, well drained soils, in frost-free areas that receive low rainfall. In South Africa it is found only in the warm parts of the Limpopo Province.

Cultural value

Some baobab species are sources of fiber, dye, and fuel.Since 2008, interest has been increasing for developing baobab seeds or dried fruit powder for consumer products.The dried fruit powder of A. digitata contains about 12% water and modest levels of various nutrients, including carbohydrates, pectin, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and phytosterols, with low levels of protein and fats. It contains 50% more calcium than spinach, is high in antioxidants, and has three times the vitamin C of an orange.

Baobab oil is an excellent natural skin moisturiser, which absorbs quickly. Baobab oil contains Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids for a healthy skin.

Growing Adansonia digitata

This tree is slow growing, mainly due to the low rainfall it receives.The trees usually grow as solitary individuals, and are large and distinctive elements of savannah or scrubland vegetation.

Saplings can be effectively grown in containers or tubs for many years before becoming too large and requiring to be planted into the ground. In this manner one can move them out of the cold into a warm position in a glasshouse or indoors behind a sunny window to prevent frost damage.