Baobab Tree – the grandfather we take for granted

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Imagine some old seemingly immortal old man who sits by the river side watching generations come and go. He sits there in heat and in cold. He watches the world deteriorate, he sees all the deforestation, the change in landscape. He has seen it all from fires to frost. With all this wisdom and treasure trove of data he watches in dejection as none of his grand children seem to notice his existence nor value his presence. That is the sad story of grandpa Baobab.

It is amazing that Africa’s oldest living species has never been appreciated not just for its resilience but for the way it has sustained animal and human lives especially in arid areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.

An old baobab tree in Botswana

In Zimbabwe just going through the Gonarezhou National Park especially during the dry months of the year, you can see the numerous baobab trees dotted across the grassland, providing hope for many animals that when the wet season comes, there would be some standing shade on the land.

Monkeys and baboons can be seen hopping from branch to branch struggling with the hard-helmeted fruit. They have aqcuired the skill to handle it. Soon you see them hitting them on stones. As the shell splits, they feast of the powder. A while later they wobble to the nearby Runde river. A day’s meal served.

The interior of a dry baobab fruit

For humans, the fruit itself has both nutritional and medicinal value. Baobab fruit is rich in Vitamin C and potassium, Magnesium, Calcium and Niacin. In African countries like Botswana, Zimbabwe and Madagascar people have created delicacies out of the powder. Some use it for baking some for milkshakes others as porridge additive.

The resilience of the tree especially in arid areas that are also prone to fires has helped maintain soil stability especially in erosion-prone areas.

Makgadikgadi Pans Baobabs

For enthusiasts one place that you can go to experience the awe-striking aura of 4000 years of existence is Makgadikgadi salt pans in Botswana.

Chapman’s and Green’s baobabs in Ntwetwe Pan are located a few kilometers from the Gweta village. These Baobas were used as markers and resting places by early European expeditions into Africa. The travellers would leave marks engraved on the trees for example “Green’s Expedition 1858–1859” which is engraved onto the baobab now known as Green’s Baobab.

A camp at Baines Baobabs , Botswana

There is also a cluster of seven baobabs in southern Nxai Pans National Park known as Baines’ Baobabs after being painted by a British artist named Thomas Baines. He camped at these baobabs in 1862 on his way to explore the famous Victoria Falls.

Avenue Of Baobabs

Avenue of Baobabs, Madagascar Rod Waddington (Creative Commons)

Another country that has a different type of baobab that is leaner and longer is Madagascar. One particular place is on the dirty road that links Morondava and Belo Tsiribihina which is lined by numerous breathtaking giant baobabs .