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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

African Baobab tree near Kayes, Mali
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Adansonia
Carolus Linnaeus

See text

Adansonia is a genus containing eight species of trees, native to Madagascar (having six species), mainland Africa and Australia (one species in each). The mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that island.

A typical common name is baobab. Other common names include boab, boaboa, bottle tree, upside-down tree, and monkey bread tree. The species reach heights of 5 to 30 metres (16 to 98 ft) and have trunk diameters of 7 to 11 metres (23 to 36 ft). Glencoe Baobab - an African Baobab specimen in Limpopo Province, South Africa, often considered the largest example alive, up to recent times had a circumference of 47 metres (154 ft) and an average diameter of 15.9 metres (52 ft).[1] Recently the tree split up into two parts and it is possible that the stoutest tree now is Sunland Baobab, also in South Africa. Diameter of this tree is 10.64 m, approximate circumference - 33.4 metres.

Some baobabs are reputed to be many thousands of years old, which is difficult to verify as the wood does not produce annual growth rings, though radiocarbon dating may be able to provide age data.

The Malagasy species are important components of the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. Within that biome, A. madagascariensis and A. rubrostipa occur specifically in the Anjajavy Forest, sometimes growing out of the tsingy limestone itself.

Beginning in 2008, there has been increasing interest for developing baobab as a nutrient-rich raw material for consumer products.[2][3]



The name Adansonia honours Michel Adanson, the French naturalist and explorer who described A. digitata.

Water storage

Baobabs store water inside the swollen trunk (up to 120,000 litres (32,000 US gal)) to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region.[4] All occur in seasonally arid areas, and are deciduous, shedding their leaves during the dry season.


The fruit is about 18 cm long

The leaves are commonly used as a leaf vegetable throughout the area of mainland African distribution, including Malawi, Zimbabwe, and the Sahel. They are eaten both fresh and as a dry powder. In Nigeria, the leaves are locally known as kuka, and are used to make kuka soup.

The fruit is nutritious possibly having more vitamin C than oranges and exceeding the calcium content of cow's milk.[5] Also known as "sour gourd" or "monkey's bread", the dry fruit pulp separated from seeds and fibers is eaten directly or mixed into porridge or milk. In Malawi, the fruit pulp is used to make a nutrient-rich juice.[5]

The fruit can be used to produce cream of tartar.[6] In various parts of East Africa, the dry fruit pulp is covered in sugary coating (usually with red coloring) and sold in packages as a sweet and sour candy called "ubuyu".

The seeds are mostly used as a thickener for soups, but may also be fermented into a seasoning, roasted for direct consumption, or pounded to extract vegetable oil. The tree also provides a source of fiber, dye, and fuel.

Baobab in Recife

Indigenous Australians used baobabs as a source of water and food, and used leaves medicinally. They also painted and carved the outside of the fruits and wore them as ornaments. A very large, hollow baobab south of Derby, Western Australia was used in the 1890s as a prison for Aboriginal convicts on their way to Derby for sentencing. The Boab Prison Tree still stands and is now a tourist attraction.

The whole fruit of the baobab is not available in the EU as current EU legislations from 1997 dictate that foods not commonly consumed in the EU have to be formally approved before going on sale. On 15 July 2008, the EU authorised the use of Baobab Dried Fruit Pulp as a food ingredient in smoothies and cereal bars Food Standards Agency website. More recently, Baobab Dried Fruit Pulp achieved GRAS status for these same food uses.[7]

A nonprofit organization, PhytoTrade Africa, plans to market the fruit for the benefit of around 2.5 million of the poorest families in southern Africa.[8][9]

The Baobab Fruit Co. of Senegal[10] currently markets baobab in Europe, and in North America through their agent Conceptula LLC[11].

Traditional uses of the whole fruit are unlikely outside of Africa as the fruit will be processed for export as a white powder with a cheese-like texture to be used as an ingredient in products.[5]

Culture and myths

  • Tabaldi is the name of the Baobab tree in Sudan and its fruit is Gongalis. Baobab's trunk is used as a tank to store water. People in west Sudan use the hollow in the trunk to save water in the rain season. Gongalis is used to make juice or to cure stomach and other diseases.
  • Baobab trees are also seen in the mountain region of Saudi Arabia, near Al Baha
  • Rafiki, in The Lion King, makes his home in a baobab tree.
  • Ernst Haeckel mentions "monkey bread-fruit trees (Adansonia)" in his The History of Creation (Chap. 29), and claims that their "individual life exceeds a period of five thousand years".
  • The owners of Sunland Farm in Limpopo, South Africa have built a pub called "The Big Baobab Pub" inside the hollow trunk of a 22 metres (72 ft) high baobab. The tree, which is 47 m (155 ft) in circumference, is reported to have been carbon dated at over 6,000 years old.[12][13]
  • Baobabs are cited in the The Little Prince as a tree that may "split" a small planet into pieces.





Further reading

  • Baum, D. A., Small, R. L., & Wendel, J. F. (1998). Biogeography and floral evolution of baobabs (Adansonia, Bombacaceae) as inferred from multiple data sets. Systematic Biology 47 (2): 181-207.
  • Braun, K. (1900) Beiträge zur Anatomie der Adansonia digitata L. F. Reinhardt, Universitäts-Buchdruckerei, Basel, OCLC 15926986
  • Colin, Tudge (2006, 2005). The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter (1st U.S. edition ed.). New York, NY: Crown Publishers. ISBN 1400050367. OCLC 64336118. 
  • Lowe, Pat. The Boab Tree. Port Melbourne, Australia: Lothian. ISBN 0850919126. OCLC 39079651. 
  • Pakenham, Thomas (2004). The Remarkable Baobab (1st American edition ed.). New York, NY: Norton. ISBN 0393059898. OCLC 56844554. 
  • Watson, Rupert (2007). The African Baobab. Cape Town, South Africa; London, England: Struik; New Holland. ISBN 9781770074309. OCLC 163617611. 
  • Wickens, G. E.; Lowe, Pat (2008). The Baobabs: Pachycauls of Africa, Madagascar and Australia. Berlin, Germany; New York, NY: Springer Verlag. ISBN 9781402064302. OCLC 166358049. 

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

'BAOBAB,' Adansonia digitata (natural order Bombaceae), anative of tropical Africa, one of the largest trees known, its stem reaching 30 ft. in diameter, though the height is not great. It has a large woody fruit, containing a mucilaginous pulp, with a pleasant cool taste, in which the seeds are buried. The bark yields a strong fibre which is made into ropes and woven into cloth. The wood is very light and soft, and the trunks of living trees are often excavated to form houses. The name of the genus was given by Linnaeus in honour of Michel Adanson, a celebrated French botanist and traveller.

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Simple English

African Baobab
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Adansonia

See text

Baobab is the common name of a genus (Adansonia) containing eight species of trees, native to Madagascar (having six species), mainland Africa and Australia (one species in each).This tree is the National Tree of Madagascar.

Other common names include boab, boaboa, bottle tree,the tree of life, upside-down tree, and monkey bread tree. The species reach heights of 5 to 30 metres (16 to 98 ft) and trunk diameters of 7 to 11 metres (23 to 36 ft). It's trunk can hold up to 120,000 litres of water.

The Baobab Tree is also known as the tree of life, with good reason too. It is capable of providing shelter, food and water for the animal and human inhabitants of the African Savannah regions. The cork-like bark is fire resistant and is used for cloth and rope. The leaves are used for condiments and medicines. The fruit, called "monkey bread", is rich in vitamin C and is eaten. The tree is capable of storing hundreds of litres of water, which is tapped in dry periods. Mature trees are frequently hollow, providing living space for numerous animals and humans alike. Trees are even used as bars, barns and more. Radio-carbon dating has measured that age of some Baobab trees at over 2,000 years old. For most of the year, the tree is leafless, and looks very much like it has its roots sticking up in the air. There are numerous legends offering explanations of how the tree came to be stuffed in the ground upside down, so it could no longer complain. Some of the myths are; many myths surround the baobab. The Bushmen believed that goings-on in the baobab so offended God that in his wrath he uprooted it and cast it back into the earth upside-down. It is said that if you drink its delectable sap you’ll receive protection from the crafty crocodile; but don’t pluck its flowers, for whosoever does so will be torn apart by lions! It is also claimed that on the day of creation, each animal was given a tree to plant and that the hyena planted the baobab upside-down and, as a result, it should never have grown. But grow it did, and today baobabs dot the Limpopo landscape.


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