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Adansonia digitata – The Baobab, or “Upside-Down” Tree


The Baobab tree, Adansonia digitata, is native to the African Savanna, and as you can see the tree is very interesting. The Baobab is known as the “upside-down” tree, because when it is bare, which it is just before, just after, and during the African dry season (which lasts around five months) it looks like it has, quite literally, been ripped from the ground and turned upside-down! The tree can grow to outrageous sizes, growing up to 30 meters (98ft) high and 11 meters (36ft) in diameter. Like most trees, it has growth rings, but it cannot be aged by counting them because they fade as they age and may be too small to count. Scientists use Radiocarbon dating to give an age to the tree and have found specimens almost as old as 2000 years of age.

The majestic Baobab tree exhibiting it’s “upside-down” nature

The trees are not only living history and magnificent specimens; they are also extremely useful. All of the parts of the Baobab can be used for some purpose. These trees are used for timber, and commonly are hollowed out. When they are hollowed, they are used for shelter, water reserves, storage, and even burial sites! The bark is used to make products from fishnets to clothing to seasoning for food. Their fruits are extremely nutritious, packed with vitamin C and are said to produce a lemonade-like drink when soaked in water. Glue, soap, medicine, and even rubber are made from this tree and its parts. As you can see this tree is useful in many versatile ways.

Legend holds that the African god Thora did not like the tree growing in his garden so he threw it out of paradise and onto Earth. The tree landed upside-down and still somehow grew, the legend says. Another legend says that when God planted the tree it continued to walk, so God pulled it up and planted it upside-down to prevent any more movement. These stories are very interesting ones! The Baobab has almost no resemblance to its sapling form; so, no wonder the ancient people of Africa thought that the trees just appear! The trees are almost impossible to kill, one can burn it, or strip it of its bark and it will keep growing, generating new bark. The trees rot from the inside and eventually just collapse, leaving almost nothing in its place. This makes some people think that the tree just disappears; this is the tree that appears and disappears that never dies and lives thousands of years. No wonder the native African tribes thought the Baobab was magical!