the tree of life
African baobabs, scientifically known as Adansonia Digitata, are the oldest living organisms in Africa. These trees manage to outlast every plant and animal around them. Baobabs contain enormous amounts of water. This water is stored in the cells of their trunks, giving the trees their characteristic swollen-looking shape. This helps them survive in some the driest areas in Africa.
Fruit & seeds
The fruit (or pod) has a hard shell and is covered with short velvety hair. Their shape can vary from elongated to round. Large pods can weigh over 2kg and contain more than 400 seeds; smaller ones can be the size of an apple with only a few seeds. Inside the shell there is a dry, chalky fruit powder in which the seeds are held in a loose network of red fibres. The fruit take 4-5 months to mature and when ripe fall to the ground where they may be cracked open by humans or baboons. The seeds are dark brown/black and kidney-shaped. Oil can be extracted from the seeds an be used on the skin or the hair.
Fiber from the bark is used to make rope, baskets, cloth, musical instrument strings, and waterproof hats. While stripping the bark from the lower trunk of most trees usually leads to their death, baobabs not only survive this common practice, but they regenerate new bark. Fresh baobab leaves provide an edible vegetable similar to spinach which is also used medicinally to treat kidney and bladder disease, asthma, insect bites, and several other maladies.
Baobabs form part of the traditions and beliefs of many African cultures. Because of its shape, stories of the tree’s creation often describe the tree growing upside down with roots in the air. Legend has it that, at the time of creation, God planted the baobab in the Congo basin. The baobab was unhappy there and complained to God that it was too hot and humid. God transferred it to the high Ruwenzori mountains, but there the baobab complained it was too cold, snowy and foggy. God then planted it in the Sahara desert where it would be warm and dry but the baobab complained again, saying it was too hot. God lost his patience, plucked it out of the ground, and threw it away over his shoulder. It landed upside-down in the savannes of Africa, where of course it lives happily to this day.