Characteristics of African Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata) in the Wild

Adansonia digitata

The African baobab (Adansonia digitata) is a tree native to Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. This tree is long-lived, researchers have done radiocarbon dating which results show some individuals are more than 2,000 years old.

African baobabs are commonly found in the hot, dry savannas of sub-Saharan Africa, where they dominate the landscape and reveal the presence of watercourses from afar. African baobabs are traditionally valued as a source of food, water, herbs, and shelter, and are a major food source for many animals. Unfortunately in recent years, many large and old African baobab trees have died, perhaps due to climate change.

Common names for the African baobab tree include Upside-down tree, Monkey-bread tree, and Cream of tartar tree.

Many of Africa’s largest and oldest baobabs have died in recent years due to climate change and global warming. Currently, Adansonia digitata is a protected flora in South Africa.

 

Some of the famous baobab trees that are still alive today are Hatiyan Jhad Baobab in India, Green’s Baobab in Botswana, Saakpuli Baobab in Ghana, Mahajanga Baobab in Madagascar, Lebombo Eco Trail Baobab in Mozambique, Ombalantu Baobab in Namibia, Arbre de Brazza Baobab in Congo, and The Big Tree in Zimbabwe.
 

Characteristics of African Baobab Leaf

Adansonia digitata Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/abubakaringim

The leaves are palmately compound with 5-7 (sometimes up to 9) leaflets on mature trees, but seedlings and regenerating shoots may have simple leaves. The transition to compound leaves comes with age and may be gradual.

All African baobab trees shed their leaves in the dry season and are leafless for about eight months of the year.
 

Characteristics of African Baobab Flower

Adansonia digitata Flower
Source: inaturalist.org/nicovr

The flowers are showy, large, white, sometimes in pairs, but usually produced singly at the end of the hanging stalk. Flowering occurs both in the dry season and the rainy season.
 

Characteristics of African Baobab Fruit

Adansonia digitata Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/bahleman

The fruit is round in shape and can reach 25 cm in length with a woody outer skin. The seeds are hard and kidney-shaped. The seed must go through a long-term dormancy phase, being able to germinate only after a fire or passing through the animal’s digestive tract. This is presumably because the seed coat needs to be broken or thinned so that water can penetrate into the seed before germination.
 

Characteristics of African Baobab Tree

Adansonia digitata Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/mydiveraft

African baobab trees often grow as individuals and are a large and distinctive element of savanna or scrub vegetation. The tree can grow to a height of 5-25 meters. The stems are usually very broad and fluted or cylindrical, often with a broad underside.

The trunk of the African baobab can reach 10-14 meters in diameter, and often consists of several fused stems. The skin is gray and smooth. The rate of growth is determined by groundwater or rainfall.

The African baobab is found in the dry climates of mainland Africa, between latitudes 16° N and 26° S. This tree has also been introduced to many other areas including Australia and Asia.

 

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