Fascinating facts about Baobab Tree I bet you did not know!

© Pedro Fernandes

Symbolic and giant Baobabs are a sign of life on the African plain-lands that belong to the genus Adansonia. It’s a group of trees that have nine different species. Six of these species are native to Madagascar, two are native to mainland Africa and Arabian Peninsula and one is native to Australia. The genus may only be small with just nine species, but the tree is huge and known for its wide trunks and tangled branches.

Baobab trees are often referred to as upside down trees with their root-like appearance and their branches high up in the sky. They prefer drier and less tropical climate. Yet, baobabs are found all over the African continent. Having been introduced in China, India and Oman they can be seen overseas as well.  

The Avenue of Baobabs in Madagascar is a world famous sight with rows of baobab trees across a track where millions of visitors come by every year.  Baobab trees are bordering roads between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region of western Madagascar. The 800-year-old baobab, known locally as Renala (Malagasy for “mother of the forest”), are a legacy of the dense tropical forests that ounce flourished in Madagascar. 

Following are some captivating facts about those special trees.

Baobab – The Tree of Life:

Baobabs are called the tree of life as they provide shelter, water, food and clothing to the inhabitants and animals of the African Savannah regions.  

The Baobab is known as the ‘Tree of Life’ due to its properties that are varied and useful for a complete life. 80 % of its trunk has water that can go up to 120,000 liters. This is due to the manner in which it adapts to the drought in the environment. It can easily act as a tap in dry spells.

A baobab’s bark is very strong and fire resistant. It can be used to make cloth and ropes. With age, the baobabs become hollow and people use them for protection, housing, shelter, jails, bush pubs and the list goes on. The baobab tree is used to make products like rubber, glue and soap as well.

As a tree of life, Baobabs also serve as nests for birds especially the four species weaver and the mottled spinetail. Elephants love eating the bark of the baobab’s during the dry season since it contains lots of moisture. It is interesting to note that baobabs tend to grow back when damaged by elephants and do not suffer from ring braking.

Medicinal Properties:

The deciduous properties of the baobab tree make it loose its leaves in the dry season. Up to nine months in a year, it remains leafless. The leaves are rich in Vitamin A and C, protein and minerals. They are edible like spinach. They can be used for condiments and in traditional medicines as well. Some of the uses in medicine are to alleviate colds, fevers, and influenza. Baobab has also an anti-inflammatory properties. Other utilization are as antiperspirant, to treat kidney and bladder diseases, as well as asthma and diarrhea.

Baobab fruits :

The fruits of the baobabs are called “monkey bread” or “cream of tartar” fruit rich in Vitamin c. They have a velvety shell texture and are the same size as that of a coconut weighing 1.5 kilograms (3.3lb). They have an acidic flavor. They taste like an inbetween of grapefruit, pear and vanilla. They can either be sucked, or soaked in water to make a refreshing drinks.

Baobab fruits are a good source of income Malagasy and South African women. Therefore, it helps reduce poverty and empower these women at the same time. They sell baobab fruits in local markets. Sometimes, those women take a small of loans to process and store the fruits. The main goal is to trade and flourish at bigger markets by forming co-operatives with other sellers. These co-ops catch attention of international buyers and the fruit can be sold in bulk with more substantial profits.

Baobabs regenerate themselves:

The baobabs live for very-very long spells. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to gauge their age as they don’t produce the annual ring growth like other types of trees. Baobabs trees can regenerate themselves and can recover from fire, drought or even termite attacks. While with other trees, stripping the bark from the lower trunk will kill them; but for the baobabs, they regenerate new barks. The baobab has a unique property to grow more bark over any damage that occurs. That is just amazing! There are very detailed scientific explanations about this phenomenon on the NCBI’s website (National Center for Biotechnology Information) here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4306539/

Biggest and oldest tree in the world:

A specimen of Baobabs are found to be over 1,000 years old and one in Limpopo Province of South Africa is presently over 6,000 years old and has a trunk measuring 47 meters all the way around. African and Australian Baobabs are very similar because they got separated millions of years back when the continents got separated.

Andasonia Grandidieri is known as Grandidier’s baobabs is the most popular and biggest species of Baobab in Madagascar with a height of 25 to 30 m (82-98 ft in height).

Baobabs attain a height from anywhere between 5 to 30 meters and a trunk with a diameter of 7- 11 meters.


From October – December in Southern hemisphere when it is summer time the tree bears huge white flowers that are 12 cm across and open up late afternoon and stay open for one night. They have a very large number of stamens with a sweet aroma but later emit a carrion smell as they turn brown and fall after 24 hours.

Myths surrounding the Baobabs:

There are many myths around the tree – along the Zambezi the tribes believe that these trees were uprooted as they were too proud and God threw the trees upside down. If anyone picks up their white flowers evil spirits cause them bad luck or else a lion kills them.

Some also believe that if one drinks water in which the seeds of baobabs have been soaked – one is safe from crocodile attacks.

A funny story from Zambia’s Kafue National Park is home to a specific specimen called the Londanamwali (the tree known to eat maidens). The legend is that the tree fell in love with four local girls who did not pay attention and sought human beings as husband. Out of revenge the tree pulled the maidens into its interior and kept them inside forever.

It is also believed that if a young boy is washed with water soaked in the baobab bark helps him grow tall and strong. The traditional belief is that women living in baobab areas are likely to be more fertile. The trees are also considered as a symbol of community and a place for local gathering.

National Honor:

In 2002, The Order of the Baobab a South African civilian national honor was instituted where annually an award by the South African president is given to the citizens for distinguished service in the fields of business and the economy, science, medicine, and technological innovation, or community service. The award was named after the baobabs to recognize its endurance, and its importance in culture and environment of the region.

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