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9 Fascinating baobab tree facts

baobab tree in Australia

‘Boab’ tree in Australia, formerly used as a prison © Simon Espley

The baobab tree is a strange looking tree that grows in low-lying areas in Africa, Madagascar and Australia. It can grow to enormous sizes and carbon dating indicates that they may live to be 3,000 years old. They go by many names, including boab, boaboa, tabaldi, bottle tree, upside-down tree, monkey bread tree, and the dead-rat tree (from the appearance of the fruit).

So, do you love baobabs as much as we do?

Well, here we provide some interesting facts about your favourite African tree:

1. There are nine species of the baobab tree (genus Adansonia) – six from Madagascar, two from Africa and one from Australia.

2. The baobab’s biggest enemies are drought, water logging, lightning, elephants and black fungus.

3. Baobabs are deciduous and their bat-pollinated flowers bloom at night.

bat colony inside a baobab

A bat colony inside a baobab © Simon Espley

4. Baobabs store large volumes of water in their trunks – which is why elephants, eland and other animals chew the bark during the dry seasons.

5. Baobabs are utilised by humans for many purposes, including shelter, ceremonies, food, medicine, fibre, juices and beer.

6. Animals like baboons and warthogs eat the seed pods; weavers build their nests in the huge branches; and barn owls, mottled spinetails and ground-hornbills roost in the many hollows. The creased trunks and hollowed interiors also provide homes to countless reptiles, insects and bats.

baboab

A hollow baboab at Limpopo-Lipadi in Botswana © Simon Espley

7. Cream of tartar (a cooking ingredient) was originally produced from the acidic baobab seed pulp, but is now mainly sourced as a by-product from the wine-making process.

baobab seed pod

A baobab seed pod © Simon Espley

8. The large trunks (the largest circumference on record is 47 metres) have been, or are used, as jails, post offices and bush pubs, amongst other creative uses.

9. Many baobabs live to a ripe old age – with one recently collapsed Namibian tree known as “Grootboom” thought to be 1,275 years old.

Prison baob tree in Australia

Prison ‘boab’ tree in Australia © Simon Espley



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