The Baobab Tree: Adansonia (Upside-Down Tree)

Contents

1. What is Baobab?
2. Interesting Facts about the Baobab Tree
3. Species of the Baobab Tree
4. Symbolism of the Baobab Tree
5. Why Is The Baobab Tree Endangered?
6. Baobab Tree Fruit Powder

 

What Is Baobab?

What is baobab? How do you pronounce it? Where is it from? These are some of the questions many people are probably asking themselves; especially given its increasing popularity across the globe.

It’s time to spill the beans and divulge on all the glory details about this magnificent tree that has been around for thousands of years. First things first, how do you pronounce baobab? It’s simple really; "Bay-Oh-Bab."

Baobab also has a Latin scientific name; Adansonia Digitata, named so in honour of French botanist Michel Adanson (1727-1806 | pictured below), who made the conclusion after his study that the baobab tree is, ‘probably the most useful tree in all’.

Mr Adanson was a living testimony to his claim that the baobab tree was magical since he consumed baobab juice twice a day when he resided in Africa. He was convinced that it was the baobab juice that gave him such excellent health.

Michel Adanson

The baobab tree has many other names including ‘The tree of life’, which is because the tree is a multi-resourceful tree. It is capable of providing food, water, clothing and shelter for human inhabitants and animals in the regions where it grows.

The tree is highly regarded by African cultures because just about all its parts can be utilised in some capacity. The tree’s large stem or sturdy bark is fire resistant, and people use it for making rope, fishnets and clothing. The bark can also be ground into powder to add flavour into foods.

The tree is highly regarded by African cultures because just about all its parts can be utilised in some capacity. The tree’s large stem or sturdy bark is fire resistant, and people use it for making rope, fishnets and clothing. The bark can also be ground into powder to add flavour into foods.

People use the baobab tree leaves for medicines and condiments. The baobab tree fruit sometimes referred to as ‘monkey bread’, is rich in vitamin C, among many other nutrients, and is frequently eaten by the locals.

The pulp of the fruit symbolise and then mixed with water, which makes a tasty, cool beverage that is as tangy as cold lemonade. The baobab fruit seeds, often pounded into a meal, taste like cream of tartar and are a rich source of vitamin C.

Other interesting things such as glue, rubber, necklaces and soaps can be produced from various parts of the baobab tree. The tree is sometimes also referred to as the 'upside-down tree’  due to its unique silhouette.

It has unusual root-like branches, which are usually devoid of foliage. The crooked spreading branches of the baobab look like there are roots that are sticking out into the air.

Other interesting things such as glue, rubber, necklaces and soaps can be produced from various parts of the baobab tree. The tree is sometimes also referred to as the 'upside-down tree’  due to its unique silhouette.

It has unusual root-like branches, which are usually devoid of foliage. The crooked spreading branches of the baobab look like there are roots that are sticking out into the air.

It has unusual root-like branches, which are usually devoid of foliage. The crooked spreading branches of the baobab look like there are roots that are sticking out into the air.

upside-down baobab tree

Legend has it that the god Thora did not like the baobab tree growing in his garden, so he threw it out over the wall of paradise, and it fell into the below.

While the tree managed to land upside-down, it still continued to grow in that position. Another legend goes that when God planted the baobab tree, it kept walking away, so God uprooted it and replanted it upside-down to prevent it from moving.

The baobab trees can be found sprawled out across hot and dry regions in Africa, and most people are often amazed at their strange upside-down shape and massive proportions; the tree has huge trunks.

It has velvety fruits and crooked branches, all of which enable the tree to survive in such hostile dry conditions.

Another legend goes that when God planted the baobab tree, it kept walking away, so God uprooted it and replanted it upside-down to prevent it from moving.

The baobab trees can be found sprawled out across hot and dry regions in Africa, and most people are often amazed at their strange upside-down shape and massive proportions; the tree has huge trunks.

It has velvety fruits and crooked branches, all of which enable the tree to survive in such hostile dry conditions.

The baobab is a magnificent ancient tree that has been around for thousands of years; they are some of the oldest trees in the world.

Carbon dating often determines their age because unlike regular trees; they don’t have growth rings around their large fibrous trunks which means that the method of dendrochronology cannot determine their age.

The oldest baobab tree is said to be over 6000 years old. Baobabs grow naturally in Africa, Madagascar, Asia and Australia. There are nine species while the one that is most prevalent in Africa is the Adansonia Digitata.

The trees are unique in that they regenerate themselves which is most likely why they have survived for so long. There are baobabs reported in Africa to have spears sticking out of their trunks from where they were lodged during tribal wars among African people years ago.

The tree simply grows over and around it and adapts to its environment. Below we shall uncover a few more interesting facts about the baobab tree.

 

Interesting Facts about the Baobab Tree

1. The baobab tree grows to enormous proportions

the baobab tree

The baobabs have been in existence for a long time, and it’s not unusual to find trees that have lived for over 200 years which have trunks of over 15 metres in diameter.

As a matter of fact, the largest tree is in the Limpopo Province of South Africa which is said to be over 6000 years old with its trunk over 47 metres in diameter.

There are nine different species of the baobab tree; six can be found in Madagascar, one in Australia and another two in Africa.

The African variety, also known as Adansonia Digitata, is the largest of all the species and can be found in 20 sub-Saharan countries. This tree tends to grow in dry climates, which have moderate to low seasonal rains.

The baobab tree doesn’t form growth rings on its trunk as it grows like other regular trees do, so it can only be dated using carbon dating.

In some regions of Africa, an entire forest of moderately sized baobabs can grow from arid plains, but some giant baobab trees such as the van Heerden usually grow solo.

This is because their predecessors have long perished due to floods (baobab trees cannot withstand floods), violent elephants, drought and even lighting strikes.

All of these four factors, plus a botanical disease which is known as black fungus, have slowly ensured that only the toughest survive to mature to old age.

2. Baobab myths, mysteries and folklore

The baobab tree has spindly branches which look like it has been de-rooted, turned upside down and then replanted. Its unusual silhouette has fathered many myths and folklore over the centuries as to why it looks as such.

baobab tree silhouette

One such tale involves a God-like deity that was frustrated by the baobab tree, uprooted it, tossed it out, only for the tree to land upside down and continue to grow.

Another story goes that when God was planting the trees, he asked various animals to help him plant the trees and gave each animal its tree to plant.

It believed that the hyena was the one given the baobab tree to plant, but because it was unpleased with the tree, it simply shoved it upside down into the ground.

It is well-known that the baobab flowers bloom in the night. Another African folklore goes that any person that plucks the blooming flowers from the tree will be torn to shreds by lions because their spirits are engraved within the flowers.

The people native to the land also believe that if you drink water from where the baobab fruit pips are soaked, you will become powerful and protected from violent crocodiles.

Baobab Amoureux

Madagascar is home to six different species of baobab trees. It is here that you will find the notorious Baobab Amoureux, which looks like two Adansonia baobab trees twisted together.

Why is it so? Well, legend has it that a few centuries ago there was a young man and woman from two neighbouring villages who fell in love and desired to live together forever.

However, they couldn’t be together because, according to their tradition, each had already been assigned a different partner to whom they were to wed separately in their respective villages.

In spite of this, the couple continued to have high hopes that they would eventually live together and even start a family.

They then secretly prayed to their God to help them, and as a symbol of their union, the two baobabs were brought forth and grew together, intertwined over the centuries to symbolise the couple’s eternal love for one another.

Aside from the many mysteries surrounding the baobab, there are also metaphors that come from this magnificent tree. Unlike folklore, which are like ancient stories, metaphors are a figure of speech that are used to compare two things, people, animals or places.

However, just like folktales, metaphors also contain great teachings. One such popular baobab metaphor is ‘wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it’.

3. It can regenerate itself

Fire, termites, and drought, the baobab tree can negate just about anything. Even when you strip its bark, it will just grow back again just like how a snake shades its skin.

There are African variety trees that still have spears lodged in their stems from the tribal battles that took places centuries ago. The baobab tree simply grows more bark over the spear.

4. You can get drunk from its trunk

Remember the 6000-year-old tree found in South Africa? Well someone decided to turn its hollow trunk into a bar which can comfortably seat about 15 adults, a dartboard and of course their drinks. How about that, a bar in a trunk?!

Limpopo baobab bar

That is not the only drink that is served by the baobab. Its enormous trunk serves as a big reservoir for water, which is useful during the dry season. It is believed to store over 30,000 gallons of water.

The inhabitants simply use a sharp object to drill a hole into the tree; they then push a stopper into the hole and get water as needed by sucking through a grass straw. Even animals pull off the spongy, wet bark and suck on it by pushing a stick or something sharp into it.

5. Numerous health benefits

Also referred to as the tree of life, the baobab tree is rich in so many nutrients that are thought to sustain life and promote good health or cure ailments. In the western world, the baobab fruit is now rightly dubbed as the modern day ‘superfruit.’

The fruit has a velvety shell and is about the size of a coconut, weighing about 1.5kg (3.3 lbs). It has a tangy, citrusy flavour, described as somewhere between grapefruit, pear, and vanilla.

The dried fruit powder contains about 12% water and various nutrients, including carbohydrates, dietary fibre, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, potassium and iron. It contains 50% more calcium than spinach, is extremely high in antioxidants, and has over six times the vitamin C of an orange.

 

Species of the Baobab Tree

Crooked, upside down and yet showing off its unique beauty, the baobab tree has been in existence for thousands of years. The Tree-of-Life inhabits places across the globe in some of the harshest environments.

The baobab trees separate into nine different species and below we shall take a closer look at each one while exploring some interesting facts.

Africa

Adansonia Digitata (African Baobab)

Adansonia Digitata

Contrary to popular belief, the baobab tree is not solely an African tree. There are nine different species of baobab trees spread out across three continents, and six of these species happen to be found in Africa.

The most common of this species is the Adansonia digitata, better known as the African baobab, which grows in various parts of Africa including Yemen, Oman and Ghana.

These trees grow up to 25m tall and 12m wide. Their vibrant flowers are yellow-white in colour and exude a beautiful carrion scent. Many consider the tree’s fruit a superfruit rich in various nutrients.

Adansonia kilima (Montane African Baobab)

Adansonia kilima

Adansonia kilima is a species of baobab tree native to Africa, described in 2012. As with other baobabs, it is easily recognised by the swollen base of its trunk, which forms a massive caudex, giving the tree a bottle-like appearance.

It is similar in appearance to the well-known Adansonia digitata. Adansonia kilima is found in upland populations of southern and eastern Africa, where A. digitata also occurs.

It has a restricted geographic range compared to A. digitata though, is diploid, and therefore presumably ancestral to the tetraploid A. digitata.

Adansonia Grandidieri (Grandidier’s Baobab)

Adansonia Grandidieri

The tree is named after French botanist Alfred Grandidier, and is one of the six baobab species that is native to Madagascar. The Grandidier is however considered endangered by the IUCN.

It is one of the popular species found native to the island and its unique branches can tower as high as 30m into the sky. It has a smooth red grey bark that makes the tree a favourite for artists and photographers.

Adansonia Madagascariensis (Madagascar Baobab)

Adansonia Madagascariensis

Unlike the other baobab trees, the Madagascar baobab often grows in dry or moist deciduous forests instead of the typical savannah grassland.

While it grows in less dry areas, the Madagascar baobab still grows to 5-20m in height and stands out from the other trees in the forest with its smooth, wide trunks and dark red flowers.

Adansonia Perrieri (Perrier’s Baobab)

Adansonia Perrieri

The Perrier is regarded as endangered by the IUCN as most of its habitat has been lost to development and agriculture, making it one of the rarest species in Madagascar with only over a dozen trees documented. The tree is only found in Madagascar in the northern port of Antsiranana.

Adansonia Rubrostipa (Fony Baobab)

Adansonia Rubrostipa

This Adansonia Rubrostipa makes up Madagascar smallest species growing to about 4-5m tall. The Fony has a unique bottle-shaped trunk that has a constriction below the upper spread of its branches and the flowers vary from yellow to bright orange hues.

Adansonia Suarezensis (Suarez Baobab)

Adansonia Suarezensis

This white flowered baobab tree is also native to the Madagascar northern island. However, it’s listed as endangered by IUCN.

Nicknamed Diego’s baobab, the Suarez baobab is named after Portuguese navigator Diego Soares, who visited the natural harbour in Antsiranana back in 1543.

Adansonia Za (Za Baobab)

Adansonia Za

The most common baobab species in Madagascar, unfortunately it is still threatened by habitat loss. The tree’s fruit is black and the seeds contain about 11% oil.The flowers are red and yellow and exude a musty sweet scent. Its unique name, Za, derives from the native Malagasy word for tree.

The flowers are red and yellow and exude a musty sweet scent. Its unique name, Za, derives from the native Malagasy word for tree.

Australia

Adansonia Gregorii (Boab)

Adansonia Gregorii

The boab, also known as the Australian baobab, is the only baobab species found in Australia. While it doesn’t grow as tall as the trees native to Africa, it shares other characteristics including thick, wide water storing trunks.Most of the

Most of the Boabs are native to the Western Australia Kimberley region and others grow in the arid parts of the country’s northern regions.

 

Symbolism of the Baobab Tree

Given the much that we know by now about the baobab tree, it comes as no surprise that it is so richly valued, and is of great symbolism in many cultures. As an African treasure, the baobab tree carries great energy and even greater stories.The tree has been mentioned in numerous religious and cultural texts. One such mention is in the Christian Bible. The baobab tree is likely the origin of the idea of waters flowing from the tree as described in Revelation 22:1-2:

The tree has been mentioned in numerous religious and cultural texts. One such mention is in the Christian Bible. The baobab tree is likely the origin of the idea of waters flowing from the tree as described in Revelation 22:1-2:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

baobab tree painting

The Jewish orphic tradition of Kabbalah features two types of trees of life; the upright tree and the upside-down tree. The latter, called the original tree of life, symbolises life emanating from God’s world, the “divine world of unity”, and its roots “flowing from the divine place of unity and infinite light”, thus God.

Almost every part of the baobab tree can be put to use, which symbolises the importance of nature and how it can be utilised effectively to benefit man and animal.

Almost every part of the baobab tree can be put to use, which symbolises the importance of nature and how it can be utilised effectively to benefit man and animal.

Others believe that the tree symbolised the unity of all mankind. It is said that God is the line of the baobab tree, and the crooked branches represent the different religions such as African religions, Christianity, Islam and so forth.These branches are in essence part of the same tree, which is God and some people believe that as such, all of 

These branches are in essence part of the same tree, which is God and some people believe that as such, all of mankind should work together as they are from the same one God.

 

Why Is The Baobab Tree Endangered?

The declining populations of the baobabs have been a growing concern for a few decades now. This concern has increased significantly.

New research shows that two baobab tree species within the Madagascar are at risk of becoming extinct as a result of losing their natural habitat brought on by climate change and increased human development in the coming few years.

There are nine baobab tree species, six of which are found in the Madagascar. Of the six, three Madagascar species have already been listed as endangered and are on the IUCN red list.

One of the species in danger, 'Adansonia perrieri' is reported to have the lowest population of trees having only 99 recorded trees to date. It estimated that by 2080, this number will have reduced by a further 30%, threatening its survival.

An interesting aspect to this story is how tortoises fit into it. The baobab fruits and seeds are relatively large and primarily rely on animals to be dispersed. Seeds that fall close to the tree don’t survive as much since they are covered in shade by the large parent trees.

baobab fruit on tree

Two species of giant tortoises that are native to the Madagascar region, but have now become extinct for hundreds of years, were thought to be the primary dispersers of baobab seeds. Biologists are currently trying to introduce other species of giant tortoises, such as the Aldabra, into Madagascar to try and save the baobab trees.

Bottom-line: climate change, loss of the habitat, human development, industrialisation plus the loss of seed dispersers are some of the key factors that are threatening the survival of the baobab trees.

However, by understanding this, people can now all work towards preventing their eventual extinction and find more ways to preserve, and even appreciate, the biodiversity of our planet earth.

 

Baobab Tree Fruit Powder

Go ahead and a get a boost of vitality and health from our 100% organic African-grown and harvested baobab powder. The baobab powder is from fruits grown on baobab trees in the beautiful Ghana, more specifically Upper East Ghana.

There are no chemicals, such as preservatives or additives, are added to the powder. The fruit powder is processed naturally from the baobab fruit and packaged in its natural state, so as not to alter the flavour or nutrients found in our organic baobab powder.

buy organic baobab powder

The unique, great taste of our baobab powder is versatile and can be used in numerous ways to reap its superfood benefits. You can add it to your juices, smoothies, thicken your soups or mix it into your breakfast cereal or simply use it to add some flavour to your meals. Due to it being tasty on its own, you can also eat it as a healthy sherbet or mix it into water.

References




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