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.
A baobab (Adansonia digitata) is an interesting addition to a bonsai collection. These trees are native to Africa and have an unusual structure and appearance. Some legends say that the tree was cast down from the heavens and landed upside down, where it began to grow. This story is no doubt a result of the tree’s appearance in the winter, when the upper branches of the tree look more like roots than treetops. The baobab has some specific needs, but if you pay careful attention to its requirements, this tree is not difficult to grow and makes an excellent bonsai specimen.
Keep the baobab tree warm, since it is sensitive to the cold. This tropical tree grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and up, but in most areas of the United States, a baobab bonsai is kept only as a houseplant. You can set it outside on warm days, but if the temperature drops below 54 degrees, the tree may die.
Place the tree in a bright, sunny window. Baobabs need at least six hours of full sunlight per day, so a window with a western or southern exposure is best. If your house doesn’t get enough light, supplement natural light with artificial grow lights for 16 hours daily, or less if the tree receives partial sunlight.
Water the tree well about once a month during the growing season or whenever the soil is dry. Never water the tree when it is dormant, since to do so is likely to cause root rot and kill it.
Feed a baobab bonsai a good-quality liquid fertilizer about once a month, applying the fertilizer when you water the tree. Due to the nature of the bonsai pot and root system, the fertilizer must be diluted to no more than half the normal strength, or you risk burning the roots and killing the tree.
Prune the branches of your baobab bonsai as often as they need it to give the tree the shape you desire, pruning or pinching off branches that are growing at odd angles or are too long. Trim early in the spring before new growth appears.
Repot the baobab bonsai every two years in the spring. Remove it from its pot and trim the roots back by one-third to two-thirds of their length, completely removing any that are damaged or dead. Place it in a container that is twice the size of the root ball and fill the pot with a mixture of 70 percent compost and 30 percent salt-free sand. Water well to minimize shock and be sure to keep it warm.
If you want to learn more about the Baobab, Adansonia digitata Bombacaceae, take a look at the descriptions below.
You’ll know everything about its local names, notanic description, biology, ecology, biophysical limits, documented species distribution, products, services, tree management, germplasm management, or pests and diseases.
English (upside-down tree,baobab,guinea tamarind,monkey bread tree,lemonade tree,cream-of-tartar tree,sour gourd);
French (pain de singe, baobab, calebassier,arbre aux calabasses,mapou zombi,mapou etranger);
Hindi (gorakh-imli,gorak lichora,gorak amla,gorak ali,gorakh-cinch,kapla-vriksha,khura-sani-imli);
Sinhala (aliha gaha); Somali (yak);
Tigrigna (kommer,hermer banba,momret,duma);
Tongan (mubuyu); Tswana (mowana);
Adansonia digitata is a large, round canopied tree with a swollen trunk, about 10-25 m in height, often with a bole of 3-10 m (giant individuals attain a girth of up to 28 m); bark is soft, smooth, fibrous, reddish-brown, greyish-brown or purplish-grey; bark of leaf-bearing branches is normally ashy on the last node; a green layer below the outer, waxy layer of the bark, presumably to assist in photosynthesis when the tree has shed its leaves.
The thick, fibrous bark is remarkably fire resistant, and even if the interior is completely burnt out, the tree continues to live. Regrowth after fire results in a thickened, uneven integument that gives the tree its gnarled appearance resembling an elephant’s skin but that serves as added protection against fire. Mature thick and extensive lateral roots anchor the tree on the ground and end in clusters of potatolike tubers; the thick, strong, prominent taproot at 6 months is 3 times the length of the seedling; roots grow fast but never penetrate far beyond a depth of 2 m, which explains why in old age they are often found toppled when the branches increase in weight.
Leaves alternate, digitately 3- to 9-foliate; leaflets oblong to ovate, 5-15 x 3-7 cm, lower leaflets being the smallest and terminal leaflet the largest; leaflets dark green, with short, soft hairs; lateral veins looping; apex and base tapering; margin entire; petiolules absent or almost so; petiole up to 12 cm long.
Flowers a waxy white, up to 20 cm in diameter, axillary, solitary, pendulous, bisexual; all floral parts in 5s; calyx deeply lobed, with white, silky hairs inside; large, crinkly, spreading petals; many stamens on a large central column that is shed with the petals; ovary superior, 5-10 chambered; petals bruise easily and become brown; flowers have an unpleasant scent.
Fruit ovoid, 12 cm or more in length, with a hard, woody shell, covered with yellowish-grey velvety hairs, indehiscent; seeds smooth, embedded in a whitish powdery pulp, have little or no endosperm.
The name commemorates the French botanist Michel Adanson (1727- 1806), who lived in Senegal for 6 years and wrote a work on that country’s natural history. Linneaus dedicated the genus and species to him; ‘digitata’ means hand shaped, referring to the shape of the leaf.
Mostly bats (Ephormorphus wahlbergii and Rousettus aegyptiacus) pollinate the flowers. The flowers emit what some describe as a strong carrion smell, which is presumably attractive to the bats; it is also known to attract the bluebottle fly (Chrysomyia marginalis) and at least 3 nocturnal moths: American bollworm (Heliothis armigera), red bollworm (Diparopsis castanea) and spring bollworm (Earias biplaga). In East Africa, the bush baby (Galago crassicaudatus) feeds nocturnally on the flowers, thus aiding in pollination. In southern Africa the tree flowers from October to December and fruits from April to May.
The tree is characteristic of thorn woodlands of the African savannahs, which are characterized by low altitudes with 4-10 dry months a year split into 1 or 2 periods. A. digitata is resistant to fire, termite and drought, and prefers a high watertable. It occurs as isolated individuals or grouped in clumps irrespective of soil type. It is not found in areas of deep sand, presumably because it is unable to obtain sufficient anchorage and moisture. A. digitata is very sensitive to waterlogging and frost. All A. digitata locations can be described as arid and semi-arid, with not more than a day frost per year.
Altitude: 0-1500 m, Mean annual rainfall: (100)250-1 000(1500) mm. Soil type: Shows a preference for well-drained soils that are acidic
Documented species distribution
Native: Exotic: Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Central African Republic, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gabon, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Martinique, Mauritius, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Sao Tome et Principe, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, US, Virgin Islands (US)
The map above shows countries where the species have been planted. It does neither suggest that the species can be planted in every ecological zone within that country, nor that the species can not be planted in other countries than those depicted. Since some tree species are invasive, you need to follow biosafety procedures that apply to your planting site.
Food: An edible white, powdery pulp found in the fruit is very rich in vitamin C and B2 and makes a refreshing drink. Ripe fruits are collected and cracked to remove the ‘flour’, which is mixed with milk to prepare a flavoured fermented porridge. Young leaves are also rich in Vitamin C, contain uronic acids, and are high in demand in West Africa as a soup vegetable. In Ferlo, North Senegal, an extract of the leaves, called ‘lalo’, is used to give couscous (millet porridge) a smooth consistency. The leaves also form an excellent condiment and seasoning.
The small stem and roots of the seedlings are eaten as vegetable; mature, thick roots are cooked and eaten during famine. A root decoction is widely used in Sierra Leone as food. It is prepared by boiling, roasting, soaking or fermenting the roots, and tastes like almonds. Having a high water content, the wood is chewed by humans and animals in case of extreme water scarcity. The wood can be used as a salt substitute. The acid pith is used as a substitute for cream of tartar in baking, to curdle milk and smoke fish. It is also roasted and used as a coffee substitute. The seeds contain appreciable quantities of tartaric acid and potassium bitar; they are refreshing to suck, and when soaked in water make a palatable drink.
Fodder: Young leaves, fruit, pods and seeds provide fodder for game and domestic animals. During drought, donkeys and game animals chew both the bark and fibrous wood for sap. Livestock and game often destroy young trees.
Apiculture: The tree is a source of fine quality honey. Wild bees manage to perforate the soft wood and lodge their honey in the holes. In many parts of Africa, the hollow trunks are used for beekeeping.
Fuel: The long-fibred wood is suitable for firewood. The shell and seeds are also used for fuel, which potters use to smooth earthenware necklaces before firing.
Fibre: The bark from the lower part of the stem of younger trees and of the roots can be removed to produce a valuable fibre. If managed properly the trees are not seriously damaged, and even after repeated use the bark regenerates and can be stripped again some years later. It is used to make excellent cordage, ropes, harness straps, mats, snares and fishing lines, fibre cloth, musical instrument strings tethers, bed-springs and bow strings. In both Senegal and Ethiopia, the fibres are woven into waterproof hats that may also serve as drinking vessels. The fibre is the best for making the famous ‘kiondo’ baskets of Kenya. Strong, tough and tear-resistant paper is produced from the fibre. It is commercially exploited in India for currency notes.
Timber: The wood is whitish, spongy and light (air-dried 320 kg/cubic m). It is used for making canoes, rafts, insulating boards, wooden platters and trays, boxes and floats for fishing nets.
Gum or resin: Glue can be made by mixing flower pollen with water.
Tannin or dyestuff: The wood contains some tannins, and the acid pith is used to coagulate rubber. In East Africa, the roots produce a useful red dye.
Lipids: A non-drying, golden yellow oil of agreeable taste, which is used in gala occasions in Senegal, may be obtained by distilling the seeds. In Bicha and Mondo villages in Tanzania, A. digitata seeds are used as a substitute for cooking oil.
Alcohol: The Wasandawe of Tanzania use the liquid from the pulp for brewing beer, as do the Akamba people of Kenya, who use the seed pulp as fermenting agent in some local beer.
Poison: The bark is boiled for days to extract a substance poisonous to ants. Fruit pulp burns with an acrid, irritating smoke that can be used to deter insects troublesome to livestock.
Medicine: Hyposensitive and antihistamine properties are present in the leaves, which are used to treat kidney and bladder diseases, asthma, general fatigue, diarrhoea, insect bites, and guinea worm. Leaf and flower infusions are valued for respiratory problems, digestive disorders and eye inflammation. The seed paste is used for curing tooth and gum diseases. The fruit pulp, seed and bark are reputedly an antidote to Strophanthus poisoning. Gum from the bark is used for cleansing sores. It is also used as an expectorant and a diaphoretic. The bark is used in steam baths for calming shivering and high fever. A decoction of the roots is taken as a remedy for lassitude impotence and kwashiorkor. The bark is boiled and taken as a cure for body pains. This infusion is also used to treat colds, fever and influenza. Seeds are used to cure gastric, kidney and joint diseases; they are roasted then ground and the powder smeared on the affected part or drunk in water.
Other products: Ash from the shell, bark and seed, rich in potash, is widely used in making soap, prepared by boiling the bark and fruit ash in oil. The shell can be used as a dish, water dipper, vessel for liquids, snuffbox, fishing float; it also makes an excellent rat trap. The powdered husk or penducule may be smoked as a tobacco substitute or added to snuff to increase pungency. The pulp extract can be used as a hair wash.
Soil improver: Decaying wood of a tree that has died of old age or from lightning is spread on fields as a fertilizer. Ashes from the shell, bark and seed are rich in potash and are useful as a fertilizer.
Ornamental: A. digitata is a popular species for bonsai specimens. The South African ‘Baobab Style’ originated with A. digitata.
Other services: In dry regions, A. digitata plays a vital role in water storage; a hollowed trunk may be carved out in 3-4 days. A medium-sized tree may hold 400 gallons while a large tree could contain over 2000 gallons, and water stored in them is said to remain sweet for several years if the hollow is kept well closed.
In East Africa the trunks are hollowed out to provide shelter and storage, and in West Africa the hollowed trunks are sometimes used as tombs.
Once established, the seedlings grow well, becoming 2 m tall in 2 years, and 7 m tall in 10 years. The tree then grows slowly but lives long; under favourable conditions some A. digitata may live for more than 1000 years. There is a prehistoric drawing of an A. digitata tree at the National Museums of Kenya. The trunk may even shrink during periods of severe drought. A. digitata may be pollarded or lopped to encourage abundance of leaves.
Seeds are probably orthodox; no loss in viability during 1 year of hermetic storage at 4 deg. C; viability can be maintained for several years in hermetic storage at 3 deg. C with 8-11 % mc. There are normally 2000-3000 seeds/kg.
Pests and diseases
The tree is very much liked by elephants, which cut the storage tissue of the bole and can damage or even destroy a tree.
Insects include cotton bollworms (Diparopsis castanea, Earias biplaga and Heliothis armigera), cotton stainer bugs (Dysercus fasciatus, D. intermedius, D. nigrofasciatus, D. suberstitious, Odontopus exsanguinis, O. sexpunctatus and Oxycarenus albipennis), and flea beetles (Podagrica spp.). Pollarding was formerly practised in the Sudan to control cotton stainers, but was also found to stop the fruiting for at least 2 years. In Ghana an unidentified black beetle is reported to damage and eventually destroy branches by girdling. Also from West Africa there is a report that a long¬horn beetle, Aneleptes trifascicata, attacks and kills young trees by girdling the stem. In the Transvaal, the masonga caterpillar or mopane worm, Gonimbrasia herlina, is said to feed on the leaves.
A. digitata is also host to members of the Pseudococcoidae family, the mealy bugs, which act as the vectors for various virus diseases of cocoa in West Africa, as well as the cocoa capsid, Distantiella theobroma. The sooty baobab syndrome is an episodic, drought-induced phenomenon related to climatic changes, made worse in recent times by human interference that limits local availability of soil moisture. Affected trees, which appear dead or dying exhibit a striking, blackened or burnt appearance, hence the colloquial term ‘sooty baobabs’.
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Also known as the Giant Madagascar baobab (Adansonia grandidieri), or Grandidier’s baobab, this iconic tree once towered over Madagascar’s dramatic arid western landscapes but now exists in only five known locations.
Its thick, bottle-shaped trunks hold large amounts of water, an extremely valuable resource to people and wildlife living in the drier regions of this island nation.
The baobab reflects the uniqueness of Madagascar’s flora. All but one of the world’s eight baobab species survive here, and most are found nowhere else on the planet.
More information about the giant Baobab tree of Madagascar
Malagasy communities call this tree the “mother of the forest”, because of its edible fruits, oil-bearing seeds, and bark that can be made into rope. In many areas, certain believers consider individual baobabs sacred and make regular offerings. Like other large trees in habitats around the world, this baobab plays an essential role in the local ecosystem. While nocturnal bats pollinate most baobabs, this particular species is pollinated by nocturnal lemurs.
Its status as a resource provider and occasional sacred site has spared individual baobabs in areas where much of the original forests has been cleared. Scientists believe that in earlier times, baobabs grew in deciduous forests near to water. Today, however, they are scattered throughout degraded lands.
The baobab has difficulty reproducing in these unnatural conditions, which has resulted in a steadily aging population. Converting land for agricultural development has dramatically transformed, and in turn reduced, the baobab’s habitat. Competition from invasive species only worsens the situation, placing the species – and the abundant life it once supported – under threat.
Scientists expect habitat loss and climate change to cause many extinctions of plant species. CI-Madagascar is working closely with nongovernmental and government partners, as well as local communities, to address the country’s deforestation and land management issues.
In 2003, the Madagascar government committed to tripling the size of its current protected area network. By identifying sites, or Key Biodiversity Areas, where threatened species such as the baobab are known to exist, we are helping to ensure that protected areas include the most critical places for conservation.
Since the global conservation status of most plants have never been assessed, many species are likely to disappear before we know they exist. The majestic baobab, itself on the brink of extinction, stands as a symbol for those plants we may yet lose.