These deciduous giants are found in the arid areas of Madagascar, Africa, Australia and India, with 9 species in total in the world. These trees can grow up to 30 metres tall and have a diameter of 11m, as they get older their trunks become hollow, and you can often find owls or bats roosting inside. They are also sometimes called the Upside Down Tree as they look like they have been planted the wrong way up. There are a few stories from ancient folklore which try to explain why the Baobab is the way it is, one of them goes like this. The first Baobab on earth was planted next to a lake, and one day the tree saw its reflection in the waters and began to complain to God why it had a fat trunk, and stubby branches, and why wasn’t it tall and slender like the palm tree or have beautiful colourful flowers like the Mahogany. It complained and complained, until God couldn’t take anymore and came down to earth, yanked it out of the earth, and stuffed it back in upside down so it couldn’t see itself in the water and complain anymore. Since then the Baobab has been making up for its belligerence by being the most useful tree on the Savannah.
The Baobab (Adansonia digitata) has got a reputation of being the tree of life, as it has so many uses and is a lifeline to so many creatures. Not only does it provide shelter under it branches or inside its trunk, its fruit which appear in January, produce a very bitter tasting fruit but high in vitamin C. Trees can take anywhere of up to 300 years before they are mature enough to bear fruit, and some never do, although they may flower every year. The trunk is very ropey and stringy and can be used as cord or clothing, while also storing water during the droughts. The white hanging flowers, with a spray of stamen, open mainly at dusk giving off a undesirable smell, which is not so lovely for us humans, but it attract bats and large moths to feed on their nectar, thus using the them to pollinate the flowers. The flowers don’t last long and are usually lying on the ground by the next afternoon.
There have been recent studies surrounding these beauties of the Savannah, and with the collapse of 5 out of the 6 oldest specimens in the region in the last decade, scientists are placing the blame on climate change. Counter claims say that, while climate change is a very real threat, it cannot solely be blamed and that the 6 specimens they picked to study were the oldest trees and may have just died of old age. See the full story here.