Baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) is a member of the Bombacaceae family. It was named after the French naturalist and explorer Michel Adanson, who described Adansonia digitata in Senegal in 1750.
Other names for the Baobab include Cream of Tartar tree (which can be made from the seeds), the sour gourd tree, the monkey-bread tree (because they eat the seed pods) and lemonade tree (because of a drink that can be made from the sap). In Afrikaans it is called kremetartboom; in isiZulu the isiMuku, umShimulu or isiMuhu; in Tsonga the ximuwu; in Setswana the mowana, and in Venda the muvhuyu.
The baobab tree has an enormous barrel-like trunk which may reach a diameter of 9m and a height of 18m. It is also one of the longest lived trees in the world; radio-carbon dating has measured ages of over 2,000 years.
The baobab is leafless for nine months of the year. Strong fibres from the bark are used for making rope and cloth. The leaves are about 12cm long and have three to seven glossy leaflets. It produces large sweet-scented white flowers suspended on long stalks facing downward. The flowers open at night and are pollinated by fruit bats. The 10cm diameter gourd-like fruit have a tough velvety exterior and contain a mealy, acidic pulp and about 30 seeds.
Lekker Links Baobab Kruger National Park
Mapungubwe National Park
Marakele National Park
When bare of leaves, the spreading branches of the baobab look like roots sticking up into the air, rather as if it had been planted upside-down.
The African bushman has a legend that tells of the god Thora. He took a dislike to the baobab growing in his garden, so he threw it out over the wall of Paradise on to Earth below, and although the tree landed upside-down it continued to grow.
Another legend describes what happens if you are never satisfied with what you already have; ‘The baobab was among the first trees to appear on the land. Next came the slender, graceful palm tree. When the baobab saw the palm tree, it cried out that it wanted to be taller. Then the beautiful flame tree appeared with its red flower and the baobab was envious for flower blossoms. When the baobab saw the magnificent fig tree, it prayed for fruit as well. The gods became angry with the tree and pulled it up by its roots, replanting it upside down to keep it quiet.’
Baobabs are very difficult to kill, they can be burnt, or stripped of their bark, and they will just form new bark and carry on growing. When they do die, they simply rot from the inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibres, which makes many people think that they don’t die at all, but simply disappear.

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