Baobab is an extraordinary African tree. It lives for over a thousand years and reaches up to 25 meters in trunk circumference. Baobab is often called the “upside down tree” as its branches look like roots.
Baobab fruit looks like a large velvety-green coconut. Inside are large seeds, coated with powder that has a tangy taste of caramel pear with a hint of grapefruit. This precious natural powder has an array of nutrients.
15 x more Vitamin C than pomegranate.
5 x more potassium than bananas.
3 x mrore antioxidants than blueberries.
3 x more calcium than milk.
High in dietary fibre, especially pectins.
Has all 8 essential amino acids that our body has to obtain from diet.
The Baobab pulp can be enjoyed daily, swallowing it with water or sucking it like candy.
The sales from baobab pulp help employ thousands of poor families in rural Africa. They also help the environment by preventing deforestation.
Keep a box of Organic Baobab pulp at home or in the office for a revitalising and invigorating boost. Baomix is a France-based brand of organic superfood supplements. Our products are made using nutrient-dense 100% organic superfoods. We only use organics products, fillers or extracts in our products – only pure and natural raw ingredients. We only source from suppliers who engage in sustainable development of local communities. Baobab.com, the David Hervy and Pascal Ottaviani project, to provide the better informations and organics products from this legendary tree.
Developing and supplying organics Baobab products from the Fruits, Seeds, Leaves, Red funicles, Bark and Baobab tree plant .
The Baobab fruit resembles a coconut and is rich with nutrients. It has calcium twice as much than milk and six times more Vitamin C than oranges. Recent studies show that the Baobab fruit has anti-inflammatory properties and could be used to cure gout, arthritis, rid of kidney stones and diarrhea. It strengthens the immune system, promotes cardiovascular health and keeps your bones healthy.
The Baobab fruit is found in Africa. It is commonly known as the bottle tree, the monkey bread tree, the upside down tree, the Ethiopian sour gourd and the Senegal calabash (fruit) or Cream of tartar tree. The tree grows real slow and lives from 500 years to a thousand and maybe much longer.
The ripe fruit of the Baobab and its pulp is a popular source of food. It is often mixed with the everyday staple such as the cassava and corn meal. It is packed with 78% carbohydrates, 3% protein, 9% dietary fiber and 0.2% fat. It contains high level of Vitamin C, calcium, potassium and phosphorous. The taste of the Baobab is acidulously tangy due to its citric, tartaric, succinic and malic acids found in its pulp.
Buy organic and natural baobab powder and food supplements, full of natural and powerful antioxidants for the body and spirit’s vitality on Biologiquement.com, the e-shop of AGOJI’s company : organic baobab powder
An innovative approach to tackle poverty and deforestation in Madagascar
By placing an economic value on the baobab fruit to improve the incomes of very poor people, we want to encourage local communities to protect their local trees and natural resources for a living forest.
Madagascan forests are under strong human pressure, and are likely to disappear even before having been fully studied. Indeed, 250,000 hectares of Madagascan forests disappear every year which means that if this pace of destruction is maintained the forests will have completely disappeared in a decade.
This will be a catastrophe for Madagascar which is one of the ten most important biodiversity “hot spots” on the planet. The main reason for deforestation is slash & burn for agriculture because of poverty, ignorance and a traditional disastrous habit. Baobab tree is a genus of eight species and six only grow in Madagascar an emblematic symbol of the country.
For centuries local populations have used all parts of the multi-purpose baobab tree as a source for daily food, craft products and as a traditional remedy for skin, respiratory, digestive, fever and other ailments.
We want to bring to the world the health benefits of two 100 % ethical and sustainably wild harvested, raw and organic super ingredients from the baobab superfruit from Madagascar:
Baobab fruit powder
Baobab oil from the seeds
To make the Baobab Superfruit from Madagascar available to the world we need to raise funds for the first run.
Buy organic and natural baobab powder and food supplements, full of natural and powerful antioxidants for the body and spirit’s vitality on Biologiquement.com, the e-shop of AGOJI’s company : organic baobab powder
Madagascar’s bid to save its majestic baobab trees
Antananarivo, Madagascar (CNN) — With their unique shape and imposing stature, the majestic baobab trees have been an icon of Madagascar’s landscape for centuries, unmovable symbols of the tropical island’s luscious scenery.
Six out of the eight species of the long-lived tree are endemic to Madagascar, the island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa.
The stunning country is home to a rich ecosystem that boasts an incredible mosaic of animal and plant life evolved for tens of millions of years in complete isolation. As a result 90% of Madagascar’s wildlife exists nowhere else on the planet.
In the midst of it all, the mighty baobab has stood tall for generations, its barrel-like trunk reaching a height of 18 meters.
Often described as “the upside down tree” due to its unusual shape — the tree’s branches look like roots sticking up in the air — the baobab has sparked many legends throughout the centuries. An ancient myth has goes that when the gods planted the trees, they kept walking away so they placed them upside down. Communities in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world, have long been benefiting from the deciduous trees — their fruits are edible, their leaves are used for medicinal purposes, while their large trunks are often excavated to serve as shelters or store water during dry periods.
“There are many interactions with the life of community living around forest,” explains botanist Jimmy Razafitsalama.
“First, they use the bark for the construction of their house and then they use leaves as medicinal plants. They eat also the fruit because the fruit are very rich in vitamins and don’t forget also it’s one of the attraction for tourists to come here.”
But while tourism proceeds can generate income for people often living on less than $2 a day, many other human activities are posing a serious threat to the baobab trees and the island’s one-of-a-kind ecosystem.
Largely dependent on the island’s natural resources, many rural communities in Madagascar have to make ends meet by exploiting the land that surrounds them — the country is estimated to have lost 90% of its forest to deforestation over the years.
Environmentalists say that activities like slash-and-burn agriculture — where an area of forest is cut and burned to create fields — logging for timber and fuelwood and charcoal production are all destroying the island’s beautiful rainforests and their endemic biodiversity.
“They cut the trees down to clear the land for agriculture or for grazing their animals,” says Razafitsalama, who has moved to the island’s northernmost part near the city of Diego Suarez to teach locals about biodiversity.
In recent years, authorities in Madagascar have taken up a series of initiatives to save its precious forests. The country has launched several conservation and reforestation projects and has also marked many regions in the country as national parks, attracting ecotourists from across the world.
Razafitsalama says that more needs to be done to safeguard the future of the baobab trees and the vast array of unique species living in Madagascar’s forests.
“Now the government they want to increase the surface of protected areas. They made a big effort but right now I see for baobab it’s not yet representative,” he says.
“A good example is this forest in front of us — it is not protected but this has the highest concentration of population of this endemic species.”
Unless more action is taken and behaviors change, Madagascar, one of the world’s true biodiversity hotspots, will risk losing more of its forests, putting in danger the survival of its unique species.
Learn more about the legendary baobabs in the Tarangire…
The morning is windy. The immense skies and surrounding landscape intoxicate in their quiet enormity. I am behind the wheels of a Land Cruiser in the Tarangire National Park.
On this day, I find myself in the company of a few acquaintances, battling the discomfort of the tsetse fly infested bush in the park (visitors to the park are advised to wear long-sleeved shirts at all times).
And then after a short drive in the park, we see the baobabs. The baobab tree is a common feature of the Tarangire National Park. Our guide tells us that in Madagascar and Senegal, there are special beliefs tied to baobas among the locals, while in northern Australia they attract tourists.
Interesting debate and disagreements ensue over the baobab tree, which is probably more controversial than all of the continent’s famous trees combined. Personally, I am awed by the enormous thick trunk that strides up from the earth; the bark that looks wrinkled like the skin of an elephant, and the branches with their long arms, extending to spiny fingers.
Old trees are covered in patches of leaves, while the younger ones are sparsely decorated. The fruit, bouille, dangles from the branches on long vines.
The baobab’s omnipresence, however, does not lessen the magic that each tree seems to hold.
Moments of reflection
I have had intimate moments of reflection, in my past visits here, close to these mighty trees. I have come close to finding great herds of wildlife. They are wondrous and they have touched me in a special way, and this visit is dedicated to get more insight into the kind of deep spiritual impact that an African experience has on the trees.
Our guide further tells us, the baobab is highly regarded by African people because of all of its parts that can be used in different ways. Besides being an important source of timber, the trunks are often hollowed out by people who use them for shelter, grain storage or as water reservoirs. The hollowed trunks also serve as burial sites. And some of the most important products come from the bark of the tree, which contains a fibre that is used to make fishnets, cords, sacks and clothing.
The bark can also be ground into a powder for flavouring food. The leaves were traditionally used for leavening, but are also used as a vegetable.
Its fruits and seeds are also edible for humans and animals. The pulp of the fruit, when dried and mixed with water, makes a drink that tastes similar to lemonade.
The seeds, which taste like cream of tartar and are a valuable source of vitamin C, were traditionally pounded into meal when other food was scarce. Other products such as soap, necklaces, glue, rubber, medicine and cloth can be produced from the various parts of the baobab tree.
Not only that.
The baobab tree serves as a meeting place for many people in African villages to discuss community matters, relate the news of the day, or tell stories. It is also considered to be an object of worship by the people of the African Savannah.
Religious beliefs and practices in Africa have played a role in raising the baobab tree to a level of sacredness. Its ability to survive long periods of time without water, its usefulness and its extremely long-life might be some possible reasons the people of the African Savannah have worshipped the baobab. One particular way the baobab tree has been used as a religious object is as a burial chamber.
In some parts of Africa, the bodies of certain important individuals are placed in a hollowed-out trunk of the baobab tree to symbolize the communion between the vital forces of the plant foods and the body of the dead. As we drive further into the park, I become dizzy with the choice of baobabs in front of me, each seeming bigger than the last while some sheltering different animals such as elephants, lions, zebras, wildebeest and so on.
I can still listen closely enough to hear the wind rustling through the tree’s thousands of lives. I imagine that it is the whispers of the living secrets of the park.
Then on our last sighting our guide drives us to the quieter parts of the park where one of the landmarks and a-must-see-area in the park is found – the poacher’s hideout, a hollow huge baobab tree named for obvious reasons.
Before the park was gazetted to become a national park in 1970, the area was popular among rhino hunters and poachers, we are told.
People in Europe and North America are beginning to realize that Baobab Fruit Pulp is among the most nutrient-dense foods in all of creation. A few realize that the leaves are also a very rich vegetable. Many parts of the plant are also used in traditional medicine.
In traditional African Medicine, Baobab Fruit Pulp, leaves, bark, roots, seeds and oil are commonly used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Although natural medicine is a growing sector in the health care industry, many botanical remedies are not very well proven, or approved by regulatory agencies, leading to consumer skepticism. Certainly, there is also a good amount of snake oil on the market as well! Baobab as a food product is relatively new to the market, and its medicinal uses are virtually unknown outside of Africa. I happened upon a peer-reviewed scholarly document in the African Journal of Food Science, written by scientists from Burkina Faso and Denmark, that has a facinating section about Baobab’s medicinal value. I will summarize parts of it in this post, but I strongly recommend reading it by clicking this link.
Before I start, none of the information below has been reviewed by the FDA, and Atacora Essential does not sell Baobab to prevent, treat or cure any disease.
Baobab Fruit Pulp is veryrich in Vitamin C. Lab tests on Atacora Essential’s product indicate that it contains 460 mg per 100 g. Studies cited in the document indicate that Baobab’s Integral Antioxidant Capacity is 37X that of oranges! Antioxidants can help to eliminate free radicals that can contribute to cancer, aging, inflammation and cardio-vascular disease.
According to the article a dose of 800 mg/kg of aqueous extract of Baobab Fruit Pulp has a very similar anti-inflammatory effect as 15 mg/kg of phenylbutazone.
Fever in Africa is most often associated with malaria, but, of course can arise from other conditions as well. In the Atacora region of Benin, where Baobabs are plentiful, Baobab Fruit Pulp, seeds and bark are used for people with malaria to help reduce fever. It is used as a substitute for quinine as a prophylactic and to reduce malaria-related fever in parts of Africa. The reference article indicates an effect comparable to asprin.
Again, aqueous extract of Baobab Fruit Pulp is shown to have an analgesic (pain releiving) effect comparable to asprin, likely due to the presence of sterols, saponins and triterpenes in the pulp.
The authors of the article cite a study that shows that the extract of Baobab Fruit Pulp had both a protective and a restorative effect for liver damage in rats. They do not cite any studies on humans.
The addition of Baobab Fruit Pulp to the fermented soy product, Tempeh, inhibited the growth of pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella, Baccilus and Streptococcus in the food product. It aided the growth of Lactic Acid bacteria, which are beneficial, and serve to preserve many fermented foods. They also indicated that the Fruit Pulp showed anti-microbial activity against E. coli.
Baobab leaves, fruit pulp and seeds have been shown to act against influenza, herpes simplex and respiratory syncytial viruses. This is likely due to several bioactive compounds found occuring naturally in the plant.
Sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in animals are caused by trypanosoma protozoa. Infection is caused by the bite of tsetse flies. An extract of Baobab roots seriously reduces or eliminate the microbes’ motility within one hour, according to the authors’ research paper.
Perhaps the most common medicinal use of Baobab Fruit Pulp in traditional African medicine is to treat diarrhoea. The fruit pulp is about 50% fiber, with nearly equal proportions of insoluble (cellulose) and soluble (mucilage) fiber. It also contains astringent tannins and citric acid, all of which may contribute to its efficacy against diarrhoea. When compared to the World Health Organization’s recommended oral rehydration solution for its effects, Baobab solution performed statistically as well. Baobab has the added advantages of a significant nutrient content, easy access and affordability in Africa.
The soluble fiber in Baobab Fruit Pulp stimulates the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria including lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in the digestive tract. This can foster a SYN-BIOTIC digestive effect. Learn more here!
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. It has been linked to lowering blood pressure, bolstering immunity, and less incidence of cataracts and coronary disease. A single serving of Atacora Baobab Fruit Pulp provides as much as 80% of daily value of this essential nutrient.
Antidote to poison
It appears that Baobab bark, fruit pulp and seeds are used to neutralize the effects of Strophanthus-derived poisons commonly used on arrows in Africa.
A decoction of Baobab roots is often used to bathe children in Africa to promote smooth skin. Baobab Seed Oil contains antioxidant Vitamins A, D & E as well as Omega 3, 6 & 9 essential fatty acids and is a soothing, rejuvenating skin care serum. Learn more here!
The baobab powder, extracted from the Baobab, the king of trees
Everyone will agree that the baobab is a special tree with its massive trunk, unique shape – which according to legend is the result of God planting it upside down – and its powerful presence.
This king of trees seems to hold aeons of life-experience like a wizened old elephant matriarch or like a tall rugged mountain. It is one of nature’s cathedrals, offering shelter, food and relief from sickness. It is no wonder that this gargantuan deciduous tree holds a place in our hearts and has inspired myths and superstition.
It’s the stuff of legends – living to hundreds of years old; its hollow interior having served as a chapel, water reservoir, shop and place of refuge; its fibrous bark collapsing to the ground at the end of its life cycle; and its delicate and pendulous white flowers, centred with a soft brush of bright yellow pollen, blooming for only 24 hours before falling like confetti at a wedding. There are eight species of baobab: an African, six Madagascan and one Australian species.
The African baobab Andansonia digitata or Kremetartboom at it’s known in Afrikaans, occurs at low altitudes in hot, dry woodland in the continent’s more tropical regions, in well-drained stony soil. It has compound finger-like leaves composed in spirals of 5-7 leafl ets at the ends of single long stalks. Its greyish-brown unevenlyfolded trunk can be more than 20m in circumference although it is often not more than 15m high.
Waxy white flowers appear in spring or early summer. The buds start to open in the late afternoon, the flowers opening completely at sunset to be pollinated at night by fruit bats and several species of bushbaby. By the next afternoon they have wilted and fallen to the ground. The oval fruit has a hard woody shell and contains a powdery white pulp, rich in vitamin C and likened to cream of tartar. A drink made with the pulp has been used to treat fevers and diarrhoea and the powdered seeds are said to cure children’s hiccups.
The seeds are dispersed by large mammals like primates and elephants. Some of the superstitions surrounding the baobab include the belief that if you pick a baobab flower, you will be devoured by a lion as the blossoms are inhabited by spirits, that the water the seeds have been soaked in will act as protection against an attack by a crocodile (although sucking and eating the seeds will attract a crocodile), an infusion of the bark will make a man strong and that a baby boy should be washed in water in which the bark has been soaked. The great tree has a patchy distribution in the northern areas of the country.
Amongst Namibia’s better- known baobabs are those that cling tenaciously to the rocky edges of Epupa Falls, the impressive Holboom in the Nyae Nyae conservancy, the Dorslandboom on the way to Khaudum Game Reserve where the Dorsland trekkers are said to have camped in the late 1800s, ‘Tree 1063’ on Keibeb farm near Grootfontein and the Ombalantu baobab in Outapi.
The Ombalantu baobab is a heritage site with a long history. The hundreds-of-year old omukwa or baobab was once a place of refuge for the Ombalantu people who climbed into its centre and hid between its fibrous walls during tribal wars and cattle skirmishes. It was later used as a post-office and finally a chapel.
A lectern with a bible and several benches remain in the baobab’s centre and visitors to the Ombalantu Baobab Tree Campsite are welcome to sit in the living chapel. Baobabs demand reverence by virtue of their sheer size and age. They tower into the sky, crowned by birds’ nests and a fringe of green leaves or they stand stark and imposing on the arid land. Whatever the season, the king of trees cannot be ignored.
Baobab is a deciduous tropical fruit tree ranging in height from 5 to 25 m and is distributed in belts in low-lying areas across Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka and Australia.
It belongs to the family called Bombacaceae. It is a very long-lived, fast-growing tree and has a lifespan of hundreds to thousands of years. The growth of the baobab is mainly managed and protected by local people. Baobabs are widespread throughout the hot, drier regions of tropical Africa, extending from Mozambique, the northern provinces of South Africa and Namibia to Ethiopia, Sudan and southern fringes of the Sahara. In South Africa the tree is found in the frost-free areas near Waterpoort in the Western Soutpansberg of the Limpopo Province.
Climatic and soil requirements
Baobabs occur in semiarid to subhumid tropical zones.
They grow on many different soils including sandy loam but develop best on calcareous substrates and on deep, slightly moist sites. They thrive where the average annual temperature is 20 to 30 °C. Germination is achieved only when soil temperature exceeds 28 °C. Baobabs are extremely susceptible to frost throughout their life cycle.
Land preparation is done in the summer or at the onset of the rainy season to preserve the soil structure. The soil
should be ploughed 3 to 4 weeks prior to transplanting, then again after 15 days, and then again just before planting the seedlings. The soil should be leveled and have good drainage.
Seedlings are mainly raised and transplanted into the field at 10 m x 10 m spacing. The hole size is 60 cm x 60 cm x 60 cm, but smaller may be suitable (40 cm3). The trees, planted in a row, should be given weekly volume of water which vary from 10 l for the first tree, 15 l for the second and 30 l for the third. Planting is done when the rainy season has started. Cuttings should be 5 cm to 10 cm in length and pushed straight into the soil to a depth of about 2.5 cm. For leaf production only, planting should be done 0,2 m x 0,5 m and for leaves and fruit it should be 4 m x 4 m.
Baobabs can be propagated from seeds as well as vegetatively.
Vegetative propagation involves the growth of a new tree from a shoot, bud or cutting from a good-quality mature tree. The trees have traditionally been propagated by transplanting naturally regenerated seedlings.
Organic and mineral fertilisers can be used and it is recommended to use farmyard manure, compost or green legume manures, especially at the time of planting for intensive leaf production.
The volume of water required varies with the size of the tree and is dependent on local climate. In general, during establishment, about 1 l to 2 l of water should be applied twice a week to the base of each young tree. The small trees can be irrigated regularly to produce higher returns from intensive leaf production and better growth. Mature baobab trees require no irrigation.
The weeds should be removed from around the tree during the early stages of growth.
Disease and pest control
Few small baobabs are ever seen nowadays because they fall victim to grazing by cattle and goats, ground fires, or picking by overzealous individuals (for soup leaves) but mature trees have few enemies. Neither cattle nor goats do serious harm. Not even overzealous pickers can seemingly set back a healthy old baobab. There are no serious pests and diseases of baobab. However, some fungal and viral diseases have been recorded and several insects attack the wood, fruit and young shoots. The most investigated common pests are:
• cotton bollworms Heliothis armigera, Diparopsis castanea and Earias biplaga;
• cotton-stainers (bugs) such as Dysdercus fasciatus, D. intermeius, D. nigrofasciatus, D. suberstitiosus,
Odontopus exsanguinis, O. sexpunctatus; • Oxycarenus albipennis as well as fl ea beetles, Podagrica spp.
The newly emerged larvae feed on the leaf and foliage of the plants. Cotton bollworms tunnel into the fruits of the baobab. They suck the sap of the leaves and young foliage.
The immature fruit drops.
Registered chemical fertilisers are recommended for use. A decoction of the kernels of Azadirachta indica (neem) can be used for insect control. Weeding can also be used as a control measure.
The baobab is a host for members of the Pseudococcoidae, the mealybugs, which can be vectors for virus diseases of cocoa and the cocoa capsid, Distantiella theobroma. In the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces of South Africa, a caterpillar, Gonimbrasia herlina, can feed on the leaves.
The caterpillar sucks the sap of the leaflets, mature and tender shoots, leaf petiole bases and young foliage. The
immature fruit drops. Chlorotic leaves and defoliation can be observed. The caterpillar feeds on the leaves.
The affected parts should be removed. The caterpillars can be removed by hand and crushed.
The age of trees when leaves can be harvested for processing into leaf powder is variable and mainly depends essentially on site conditions. Trees can be harvested from any age. In general, leaf utilisation could start before the sixth year when site conditions are favourable. Women traditionally start harvesting when leaves begin to develop and the period varies according to agroecological zones (April to May). Mass leaf harvesting is done in September and October. The bark is also harvested at the same time as the leaves. The fruit is harvested when the shell is brown, between December and April. The tools used in harvesting the leaves are the sickle and dolé. Harvesting by hand picking is done less frequently since it is difficult to climb a baobab tree.
Baobab provides food, emergency water and fibre. It has also medicinal uses. Fibre from the stringy inner bark provides items (or is used for items) such as rope, thread, basket, nets, snares, fishing lines, strings for musical instruments, and a paper stock tough enough for banknotes. The fibre is even used for weaving. Some is woven into fabrics that are valued for making the bags used for carrying and storing everyday goods. Baobab trees supply food and traditional medicines for both humans and their livestock.
A refreshing drink, prepared from the pale yellow or whitish fruit pulp called cream of tartar, has been used to treat fevers, diarrhea and apparently also haemoptysis. The leaves are used against fever, to reduce perspiration and as an astringent. They also come in hardy in treating other afflictions: asthma, kidney and bladder diseases, insect bites, fevers, malaria and sores.
In the Limpopo Province the powdered seeds are given to children as a hiccup remedy. Under survival stress man can use many parts of the baobab as food or obtain water from its roots, branches or leaves. A crude, coffee-like beverage can be prepared by baking the baobab seeds. Many people find shelter from the blistering sun in the ample shade provided by its sturdy trunk. Young leaves when mixed with pepper and salt and added to a stew give it a good taste.
Young, fresh leaves are cut into pieces and cooked into a sauce. Sometimes the leaves are dried and powdered and used for cooking.
Learn more about the Baobab tree in African landscape
The baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) is a common sight in Malawi’s varied and lush landscape. Standing sentinel, the trees seem ancient, immovable landmarks that connect the present with the past. Not necessarily beautiful, the trees look odd, even upside down, as their often bare limbs stretch out like a complicated root system. The bark is tough, steel gray with wrinkles like elephant hide. The trees grow to massive size and girth and virtually every tree has a unique silhouette and numerous scars that remain permanently ingrained in the bark. Baobab trees are the subjects of legends and spiritual stories, while scientists continue to try and better understand what makes them grow and thrive.
Humans have benefitted from baobabs for generations. Each part of the tree can be used for a wide range of products, such as fishing nets, cords and rope, mats, containers, cloth, hats, and shoes, and the bark has even been used for elephant saddles. The bark, wood, seeds, piths, and leaves offer great medicinal value and have been used in traditional medicine to cure asthma, dysentery, diarrhea, colic, eye infections, malaria, fatigue, fever, inflammation, ear aches, tumors, kidney and digestive problems, as well as open wounds. Because baobab trees are mostly hollow, people have also used the inside of the trees for all sorts of purposes, making them into shops, bars, stables, a dairy, a bus shelter, prisons, postboxes, burial sites, wells, and even a flush lavatory.
The baobab tree is synonymous with the African landscape. One can find the resilient baobabs surviving in even the most unforgiving landscapes: on rocky outcrops, high on mountains, and deep in deserts. Usually solitary, the trees survive droughts, aggressive elephants, and human contact. Despite their massive size and unusual shape, they rely on a system of hydraulic pressure to stay upright, as the porous wood retains water. The trees have extensive root systems that remain close to the surface. Remarkably immune to destruction, those trying to clear a tract of bushland in Tanzania after World War II used bulldozers, military tanks, and even tried dynamite, but failed to move the largest of the baobab trees.
The first recorded description of a baobab tree was written by Ibn Battuta. Born in 1304 in Tangiers, Battuta traveled throughout Africa and was fascinated by the unique specimen. From then on, travelers have remarked on the extraordinary size and strange form of the trees. David Livingstone’s companion, Thomas Baines, wrote that one tree in particular was “10 times the span of my extended arms, or perhaps, nearly 50 feet.” David Livingstone also recorded the circumference of several baobabs during his expeditions and even carved his initials into the trees along his routes. One can find traces of others doing the same, including the Green brothers, a pair of Canadian hunters who carved “Green’s Expedition 1858, 9″ into a baobab that is still standing in South Africa.
Scientists have not agreed upon an equation to determine a baobab’s age by its size. E.R. Swart published his study in 1963 that used carbon dating to determine that a baobab specimen with a radius of 2.28 meters was 1,010 years old. In Malawi, many say that for every meter of circumference, the tree is a hundred years old. The largest tree on record since scientists began a registry in the 1980′s, has a 25 meter circumference and is 33 meters tall. In South Africa, owners of a baobab tree claim that it is the largest in the world, with a circumference of 46.8 meters. While it is difficult to determine exact age without carbon dating, it is clear that these monolithic trees look and feel permanent. The Prussian explorer Friedrich von Humboldt described baobabs as the “oldest organic monuments of our planet.”
Baobabs are so much a fixture of the landscape that they were even used in the formal treaty that demarcated the border between Kenya and Tanganyika in 1900. The agreement reads that “on the high bank the boundary goes from the baobab at No 5 past a second baobab to a third baobab.”
With such a rich and varied landscape, it is easy to take these behemoth trees for granted. In Malawi, these trees are part of the history of the land, the culture of the people, and add to the beauty and mystery of the African panorama.