There are nine species of the mighty Baobab tree, eight of which can be found across the African continent. Among the tree world, the Baobab is one of the largest with a record diameter of 15.9 meters, that’s over the length of a double-decker bus, and reaching heights of over 30 meters. This size isn’t just for show though, as the large trunk acts as a vast storage tank of up to 120,000 litres of water to enable the tree to produce some of the most nutrient dense pods in the world during the dryer seasons. Baobab trees are also some of the oldest trees on our planet, with one specimen carbon dated to be older than 6000 years.
Baobab pods are small coconut-like pods with a hard outer shell covered in a velvety fur. The average pod is around 1.5 kilograms in weight and 6-8 inches long. Baobab pods are the only fruit pod that dries naturally on the branch, ready to harvest and process. Inside the shell are small stone-like seeds covered in the dried fruit pulp.
The pods have been harvested by both animals and man, and for millennia have provided essential vitamins and minerals during periods of drought. The Baobab fruit in some parts of Africa is also known as ‘Monkey Bread’ as it’s a staple in the diet of local monkeys.
THE TREE OF LIFE
The Baobab tree, also aptly named ‘’the Tree of Life’’, manages to thrive in inhospitable areas where not even grass or small bushes are found. In addition to providing nutritious fruit, the tree also offers sustenance from its leaves and flowers to many herbivores, while its vast trunk provides shade and protection from the weather and other hazards of the plains. The nook and crevice bearing trunks are also home to a variety of nesting birds; ground hornbills and mottled spinetails, both of which are of conservation concern in other African countries, and barn owls and weaver birds. The hollowed trunks provide a base for reptiles, a plethora of insects and fruit bats which both help to pollinate the trees.