Adansonia digitata or African Baobab is the most iconic and legendary tree of the African continent.
It is the only species of the genus Adansonia that grows on the African continent: 6 other species grow in Madagascar and one species in Australia.
Because of its shape, a very thick trunk with a crown of leaves at the top which is stripped of leaves during the long dry season, the tree seems to be planted upside down.
According to an African legend, it was thrown by the gods from heaven to earth and landed on its his head. In Kenia it is told that the devil planted the tree upside down because of its monstrous appearance.
The tree can become very old. In Namibia, a specimen is estimated to be about 1,275 years old.
This is obviously not a hardy plant but it can be grown as a houseplant or bonsai and placed outside in summer.
Adansonia digitata is a tree of up to 25 m height. The succulent trunk is very thick, up to 16 m in diameter and 20-40 m in circumference. The wood is soft and spongy.
In the rainy season it can store thousands of liters of water to survive the long dry season. Elephants sometimes pierce a hole in the trunk to drink this water and so damage mature specimens.
The leaf crown stands at the top of the trunk. There leaves appear only during the rainy season, which makes the crown look like roots during the dry season, when it is leafless.
The leaves are alternate and close at the end of branches. They are palmate, with 5-7 leaflets of 15 cm long and 5 cm wide, with a smooth or serrated edge. They are covered with stellate hairs on the underside.
The white flowers measure 15 cm in diameter and hang at the end of a long stalk. Flowering occurs during the first two months of the rainy season.
The flowers are pollinated by bats that are attracted by the smell of rotting flesh emitted at night.
The fruit is elongated, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 20-30 cm long. It is surrounded by a relatively hard shell and contains seeds surrounded by a dry pulp. Hanging from the stems, they look like dead rats.
The edible fruit is considered a superfruit because of its high content in calcium, vitamin C and antioxidants. The fruit is eaten fresh or diluted with water or milk.
The young leaves are considered a delight. They are dried and then boiled.
Baobab has long provided material for cloth, rope, soap, dye, glue, fodder and traditional medicine.
Baobab, African Baobab, Baobab of Mahajanga (Madagascar), Baobab Tree, Cream-Tartar Tree, Dead Rat Tree, Ethiopian Sour Bread, Judas Fruit, Monkey Bread Tree, Sour Gourd
Adansonia bahobab, Adansonia integrifolia, Adansonia scutula, Adansonia situla, Adansonia sphaerocarpa, Adansonia sulcata, Baobabus digitata, Ophelus sitularius
Adansonia: in honor of Michel Adanson, a French botanist and naturalist from the 18th century
Digitata: from the Latin digitatus (with fingers, with toes)
Dry savanna with low rainfall where it usually grows as a solitary
USDA zones 10-11
A very draining substrate, such as used for cacti and succulents
Water thoroughly or bathe once a month during the growing season (early spring through fall) and not at all in winter
Does not require additional fertilizer, the substrate contains enough nutrients
Prefer a clay pot as the water evaporates more
Repot every two years. Prune the roots and water thoroughly by immersion immediately after potting.
Remove dead or damaged branches and prune other branches to give the desired shape, in early spring, before growth resumes.
By seed and cutting.
- sow in spring or early summer
- soak the seeds in warm water for 24
- sow in a moist, well draining substrate
- 25-27 °C
- germination time: 2-6 weeks
- seedlings grow fast
- flowering occurs after 10 years