Adansonia digitata L.
Bombacaceae - The Baobab Family (SA Tree List No. 467)

Locality:   Photographed at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on a cold rainy day.

Description:  An extremely large fat plant. Trees can reach a height of 15 metres with a circumferecne of up 20 metres. Trunk tapers quite radically and branches high above the ground.  Trunk is unevenly folded with smooth grey or yellowiah-grey bark.  These branches are short and thin, which makes them look like roots.
Young trees are different to mature plants in their leaf structure. Adult plants have leaves that are compound and digitate (5-7 leaflets, up 150mm in length) while those on younger trees are simple.

Flower & Fruit:  Large pendulous white flowers are produced in early summer (October to December),  15cm in diameter.  The flowers open in the evening and fade within 24 hours.  Fruit is ovoid, up to 26cm in length, the hard woody exterior is covered in greenish grey velvety hairs.  Seeds are embedded in a whitish powdery pulp.  The pulp is rich in tartaric acid, potassium bitartrate and vitamin C.

Common Names:  Baobab, Cream of Tartar Tree.

Propagation:  Seeds & Cuttings.

Cultivation:  Only small specimens can be grown in pots and I have yet to see one with compound leaves.  A well drained soil is essential.  Start watering the tree only when there are signs of active growth, otherwise keep it dry.  Water every week or two and feed once a month. Full sun.

Points of Interest:  Recent carbon dating has shown that large trees may be older than 3000 years old.  Trunks have been hollowed out and used as houses, prisons, bars, storage barns and a refuge from wild animals.
The seeds are sucked as a refreshment and the pulp is used to treat fevers and vitamin C deficiency.

Folklore:  In the days of creation the Gods decided to create a magnificent tree, the Baobab tree.  The Baobab knew it was beautiful and used to brag about its beauty to all the other creations.  This constant vanity finally angered the gods, who uprooted and planted it upside down to teach their creation a lesson in humility.

  Members of the Baobab family are distributed from America through Africa to Australia.  Only one species grows in South Africa.  They are found in the Northern Province of South Africa in areas of low altitude in the hot bushveld.  A.digitat is quite widespread throughout Africa.

Caudiciform and Pachycaul Succulents : Pachycauls, Bottle-,Barrel-And Elephant-Trees and Their Kin a Collector's Miscellany by  Gordon Rowley
***** Excellent Book.

Reference:  Keith, Paul & Meg Coates Palgrave, Everyone's Guide to Trees of South Africa, 4th Edition. 2000. Struik.
Ben-Erik van Wyk, Bosch van Oudtshoorn, Nigel Gericke. Medicinal Plants of Southern Africa. 1997, Briza.


Max H. Michael, All Rights Reserved, 2002