The African Baobab
is the best know of the species and its distribution has been greatly
assisted by humans. They can be found in the semi-arid areas from the
sub-Saharan region of the continent down to the Tropic of Capricorn.
Trunk Size: The average
trunk diameter of a Baobab Tree is 5 meters, but up to 12 meters are not
uncommon and they can attain heights of about 30 meters. The trunks do not have
annual growth rings, making it difficult to accurately age the tree. The shape
of the trunks varies from bottle - cylindrical - tapering and often two or more
trunks will occur. The wood is soft and fibrous being able to store up to water.
A fully grown tree can hold up to 120,000 liters of water.
Smooth trunk bark
Vandals been here
Flowers at 20yrs of age
Some Baobab Trees have hollow trunks and often doors are fitted to the
openings offering a secure lock-up. Baobabs equipped in this way
have served as store-rooms, prison cells and even bars. In northern
Namibia the Baobab at Ombalantu in Owamboland was once used as Post
office, whereas one at Katima Mulilo in Caprivi Region has been
fitted with a water flushing toilet.
There are African stories that tell of Baobabs that are one or
two thousand years old, but as the tree does not produce annual
growth rings they are difficult to age. These claims are viewed with
skepticism by botanists.
2.5cm thick, glossy light grey-purple in color and normally smooth, but can form as
lumps as seen above. The bark is used for medicinal purposes and for
making a type of cloth and even rope.
The Baobab Tree As A Provider:
The Baobab plays an
important role in the lives of many Africans as it provides for many
of their needs.
Baobab remains leafless for about nine months of the year throughout
the dry season. When in leaf the large palmate leaves are commonly
used as a 'leaf vegetable' in stews and soups.
The leaves are dried and ground
into a powder that is taken to help stop diarrhea and stomach
ailments, and is used as preventative for excessive perspiration.
Bark: Freshly cut bark is pulped
to extract an acidic juice that can be taken as a remedy for fevers
and is used as a disinfectant and mouthwash. The acidic pulp is also used as a poultice that can be used
for helping to draw out poison from insect bites or an infected area.
The bark is fibrous and is often used
for making ropes, baskets, and even cloth.
The Fruit: Can
be eaten fresh, and the whitish pulp used for making 'Cream of
Tartar'. Dried they can be ground and used as a substitute for
Getting to Baobab Tree
Grootfontein drive on the B8 road towards
Rundu. After 4km look
carefully for the road sign for the M 73. It is small and can be easily
missed. Turn left onto M73. After 8km turn right onto the D2848. After
39 km there is a T junction. Drive straight on the road now becomes the
D2855. After 33km you will see the Baobab Tree sign on your right.
From the car park it is about a 700
meter walk to the Tree.
Allow about 3 hours. The return trip from Grootfontein is
Acknowledgements and further reading:
H12, P1, W13