The majestic Baobab tree features in many images of South African naturescapes and is also known as the ‘upside-down’ tree. With its thick, cylindrical trunk and heavy, tapering branches that resemble a root system, it is no accident that many traditional African tribes believe that the tree actually grows upside down.
Baobabs normally reach a height of between 10 and 22 m, but the enormous girth of the tree (from 3 to 10 m and even more) makes it a true giant of the tree world. The bark of the tree is thick and fibrous and is remarkably fire resistant. Deciduous, the hand-shaped leaves are dark green with soft hairs and are produced during late spring and early summer. Waxy white flowers appear from October to December and have a strong smell, attracting fruit bats and bush babies. Fruit in the shape of large egg-shaped capsules contain a powdery substance in which seeds are embedded and occur from April to May.
Slow growing, the Baobab is restricted to frost free areas and is very drought hardy. Adansonia digitata can be successfully utilised in large gardens, eco-estates and wildlife reserves. The root system is fairly shallow (seldom more than 2 m deep), but has extensive lateral roots that anchor the tree.
Known for its food, water and sheltering properties, the Baobab tree is a welcome addition to the hot, dry areas of Southern Africa.