baobab n : African tree having an exceedingly thick trunk and fruit that resembles a gourd and has an edible pulp called monkey bread [syn: monkey-bread tree, Adansonia digitata]
EtymologyArabic buhibab fruit of many seeds
- Albanian: babobab
- French: baobab
- Polish: baobab
- Russian: баобаб (baobáb)
Baobab is the common name of a genus (Adansonia) containing eight species of trees, native to Madagascar (the centre of diversity, with six species), mainland Africa and Australia (one species in each). The mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that country. Other common names include boab, boaboa, bottle tree and monkey bread tree. The species reach a height of 5–25 m, 10-80ft (exceptionally 30 m, 100ft), and often a trunk diameter of 7 m, 23ft (exceptionally over 11 m, 36ft). A specimen in Limpopo Province South Africa, often considered the largest example alive, has a girth of 155 feet and an average diameter of 15 m, 49ft. Baobabs store water inside the swollen trunk, up to 120,000 litres (32,000 US gallons), to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region. All occur in seasonally arid areas, and are deciduous, shedding their leaves during the dry season. Some are reputed to be many thousands of years old, though this is impossible to verify as the wood does not produce annual growth rings. Few botanists believe these claims of extreme age; current evidence suggests they rarely exceed 400 years.
The Malagasy species are important components of the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. Within that biome, A. madagascariensis and A. rubrostipa occur specifically in the Anjajavy Forest, sometimes growing out of the tsingy limestone itself.
- Adansonia digitata – African Baobab (western, northeastern, central & southern Africa)
- Adansonia grandidieri – Grandidier's Baobab (Madagascar)
- Adansonia gregorii (syn. A. gibbosa) – Boab or Australian Baobab (northwest Australia)
- Adansonia madagascariensis – Madagascar Baobab (Madagascar)
- Adansonia perrieri – Perrier's Baobab (North Madagascar)
- Adansonia rubrostipa (syn. A. fony) – Fony Baobab (Madagascar)
- Adansonia suarezensis – Suarez Baobab (Diego Suarez, Madagascar)
- Adansonia za – Za Baobab (Madagascar)
The name Adansonia honours Michel Adanson, the French naturalist and explorer who described A. digitata.
The leaves are commonly used as a leaf vegetable throughout the area of mainland African distribution, including Malawi, Zimbabwe, and the Sahel. They are eaten both fresh and as a dry powder. In Nigeria, the leaves are locally known as kuka, and are used to make kuka soup.
The fruit is extremely nutritious and is known as sour gourd or monkey's bread. The dry pulp of the fruit, after separation from the seeds and fibers, is eaten directly or mixed into porridge or milk. In Malawi, the fruit pulp is used to make juice which is very rich in nutrients such as calcium and vitamin C. The shells are burned for heat. The fruit was once used in the production of tartar sauce. In various parts of East Africa, the dry fruit pulp is covered in sugary coating (usually with red coloring) and sold in packages as a sweet and sour candy called "boonya" or "bungha".
The seeds are mostly used as a thickener for soups, but may also be fermented into a seasoning, roasted for direct consumption, or pounded to extract vegetable oil. The tree also provides a source of fibre, dye, and fuel.
Indigenous Australians used baobabs as a source of water and food, and used leaves medicinally. They also painted and carved the outside of the fruits and wore them as ornaments. A very large, hollow boab south of Derby, Western Australia was used in the 1890s as a lockup for Aboriginal prisoners on their way to Derby for sentencing. The Boab Prison Tree still stands and is now a tourist attraction.
- The baobab is the national tree of Madagascar.
- Baobabs are also used for bonsai (the most popular being A. digitata).
- The baobab is occasionally known colloquially as "upside-down tree". Cited in an Arabic legend in which the devil pulled out the tree and planted it upside down. It is also cited in older African lore: after creation, each of the animals was given a tree to plant and the hyena planted the baobab upside-down.
- In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's story The Little Prince, the Little Prince was worried that baobabs (described as "trees as big as churches") would grow on his small asteroid, take up all the space and even cause it to explode.
- There is an important baobab tree in Kunta Kinte's village in The Gambia from Alex Haley's novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
- Rafiki, in The Lion King, makes his home in a baobab tree.
- Singer Regina Spektor has a song called Baobabs that was released on the special edition of "Begin To Hope" (2006).
- Orchestra Baobab is a Senegalese band.
- British/South African composer Andi Spicer wrote a piece for percussion called Baobab. There is also a version of the piece written for harpsichord.
- Ernst Haeckel mentions "monkey bread-fruit trees (Adansonia)" in his The History of Creation (Chap. 29), and claims that their "individual life exceeds a period of five thousand years".
- The owners of Sunland Farm in Limpopo, South Africa have built a pub called "The Big Baobab Pub" inside the hollow trunk of a 72ft high baobab. The tree, which is 155ft in circumference, is reported to have been carbon dated at over 6,000 years old.
- In the movie FernGully: The Last Rainforest, the evil spirit Hexxus is released when the baobab tree he is imprisoned in is cut down.
References and external links
- Braun, K. (1900) Beiträge zur Anatomie der Adansonia digitata L. F. Reinhardt, Universitäts-Buchdruckerei, Basel, OCLC 15926986
- Baum, D. A., Small, R. L., & Wendel, J. F. (1998). Biogeography and floral evolution of baobabs (Adansonia, Bombacaceae) as inferred from multiple data sets. Systematic Biology 47 (2): 181-207.
- Pakenham, T. (2004). Remarkable Baobab. Norton, New York, ISBN 0-297-84373-7
- Jardin Botanique et Pepiniere: Baobab species details
- Jardin Botanique et Pepiniere: Baobab photo gallery
- Madagascar info: Baobab photo gallery (Malagasy species only)
- King's American Dispensatory: Baobab: herbal information
- Baobab: Interactive Bibliography
- Baobab leaves: from "Celtnet Herb Guide"
baobab in Afrikaans: Kremetart
baobab in Bosnian: Baobab
baobab in Catalan: Baobab
baobab in Czech: Baobab
baobab in Danish: Baobab
baobab in German: Affenbrotbäume
baobab in Estonian: Ahvileivapuu
baobab in Modern Greek (1453-): Αδανσονία
baobab in Spanish: Adansonia
baobab in Esperanto: Baobabo
baobab in French: Adansonia
baobab in Hindi: बेऑबॉब
baobab in Croatian: Baobab
baobab in Indonesian: Baobab
baobab in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Baobab
baobab in Italian: Adansonia
baobab in Lithuanian: Baobabas
baobab in Malagasy: Baobab
baobab in Dutch: Baobab
baobab in Japanese: バオバブ
baobab in Norwegian: Baobab
baobab in Polish: Baobab
baobab in Portuguese: Adansonia
baobab in Serbian: Баобаб
baobab in Swedish: Apbrödsträd
baobab in Vietnamese: Bao báp
baobab in Turkish: Baobab
baobab in Ukrainian: Баобаб
baobab in Chinese: 猴面包树