The African Baobab Tree
The African Baobab tree is a unique species and has adapted in amazing ways to their environment, able to survive in very dry parts of Africa and in a variety of habitats.
The biggest trees can store over 100,000 litres of water in their thick fibrous trunks, using it to get through times of poor rainfall and times of drought. In severe years of drought the baobabs trunk shrinks, then enlarges again when the rains come and the water is replaced in the huge trunk.
As the tree gets older, the middle of the trunk naturally gets hollowed out and is sometimes used as a haven by some animals.
The African Baobab Tree: The Big Tree at Victoria Falls
One of the main attractions of the Victoria Falls is approximately 2 kilometres from the waterfall and can be seen when travelling on the Zambezi River Drive, not far from the bank of the Zambezi.
It has become known as the ‘Big Tree’ because of its impressive size. This giant baobab of Victoria Falls is one, if not ‘the’, largest baobab tree in the region as well as possibly the oldest living tree in the world.
It is known that David Livingstone saw and witnessed this tree in 1855, and it would have been well over 1000 years old when he passed by. In the past, the tree has been used as a meeting place for the early British explorers and intrepid traveller’s and traders passing through the area. Livingstone did leave his mark on a different baobab tree near the falls. He carved his name into a baobab tree on Garden Island above the precipice of the waterfall, where he first witnessed this natural phenomenon.
This massive giant baobab is considered to be one of the biggest in Zimbabwe and is famous both in the country and elsewhere in the world. It is protected and has been designated a heritage site.
It is 20 meters high and over 16 meters in circumference. It is not old at 1 500 years, by baobab standards, and it has still got two-thirds of its life expectancy to go. Considering its current size, this is impressive indeed.
Some speculate that this African Boabab Tree is actually 3 trunks or trees joined together to create the impressive girth. This conjecture, if true, would make the tree younger than the original estimate.
The African Baobab Tree Or The Upside Down Tree
Baobabs have lots of uses, including medicinal advantages, with many people liking to eat the fruit which has lots of vitamin C. The leaves are also eaten and the fibers from the bark are used to weave mats, bags and hats.
So, for the local communities that live in the region where these trees grow, the baobab tree is a welcome source of income as well as a local pharmacy for several ailments.
Locally the baobab tree is called the ‘African upside down tree’ as it looks as though the tree has been buried in the ground with the roots in the air. A very apt analogy. Some people would say it looks prehistoric, either way, they really stand out in the bush and are difficult to miss!
The adansonia digitata or African baobab tree is a truly remarkable product of nature and has withstood the test of time right through the ages.