Baobab trees have always caught the imagination of people. From the early San hunter gatherers to the British explorers, even royalty has travelled to Africa to paint these magnificent giants. Adansoni Digitata is the Latin name. Mr Adanson was one of the first to describe this tree and Digitata refers to the compound leaves which resembles the digits of a hand as there is 5.
Other species occur in Madagascar and Australia. This tree is also known by other names. It is called the tree of life. Simply because it has so many daily uses. You can roast and grind up the seeds as a coffee substitute. The leaves can be eaten like spinach. The bark and fibres may be used to make rope. All manner of birds and insects make this tree their home. Hollows often form in the tree and these can collect water. Elephants love to eat all parts of the tree. It is high in moisture and is technically the world’s largest succulent as it consists of about 70% water. Not to mention that they live for thousands of years and make a very striking site as they grow 30 metres tall and 10 metres wide.
Besides the practical uses there are many superstitious beliefs that go along with the baobab. The San believe that there are no young baobabs as the young tree has a simple leaf structure and so looks different from adult trees. They say the tree falls from the sky fully grown and that it is top heavy and so falls into the ground upside down, with its roots sticking into the sky.
In East Africa they believe the rain god lives in the baobab and the branches of the tree help to hold up the sky. The tree has fascinated all peoples from time to time. It’s a great feeling to stand beside one of these giants and think of what they might have witnessed in the last 1500 years.
– Chantal (Jenman Safaris guide)