Victoria Falls Traveller

The African Baobab Tree

African Baobab Tree

The African Baobab tree is a unique species and has adapted in amazing ways to their environment.

The African Baobab Tree Or Upside Down Tree

The African baobab tree are odd looking trees and are quite remarkable.  They are able to survive in very dry parts of Africa and in a variety of habitats.

The biggest trees can store over 100,000 liters 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 trunk shrinks, then enlarges again when the rains come and the water is replaced in the huge trunk. This makes it uniquely different to any other tree on the planet.

As the tree gets older, the middle of the trunk naturally gets hollowed out and is sometimes used as a haven by some animals. It is a perfect hideaway and provides protection from both the elements and any predators that may be lurking around.

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 Zambezi river bank.

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 tree of this species in the region as well as possibly the oldest living tree in the world.

Definitely a must see pit-stop on your African travels.

Adansonia Digitata

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, consequently, protected and has been designated a heritage site.

This majestic tree 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.

David Livingstone

David LivingstoneIt 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. It was a conspicuous landmark that was easy to locate for get-togethers and meetings.

Livingstone did leave his mark on a different baobab tree near the falls. He carved his name into a tree on Garden Island above the precipice of the waterfall, where he first witnessed this natural phenomenon.

The Local Community And The Baobab

Baobab FruitBaobabs have lots of uses, including medicinal advantages, with many people liking to eat the fruit which has lots of vitamin C. 

The leaves are eaten for medicinal purposes with the bark fibres harvested and used to weave mats, bags and hats.

So, for the local communities that live in the region where these trees grow, it is a welcome source of income as well as a local pharmacy for several ailments.

10 Baoboab Tree Facts

  • There are nine different species of baobab trees. Two species are native to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Six species are found in Madagascar, with one native to Australia.
  • The species found in Southern Africa is of the genus "adansonia digitata".
  • These remarkable trees are known as upside down trees because their branches look like roots.
  • Baobab trees can live for over 3,000 years.
  • The trunk of the tree is very large reaching diameters of between 25 and 36 feet.
  • The tree trunks can hold up to 120,000 litres (32 000 gallons) of water.
  • The cork-like bark of the tree is soft and fibrous allowing the fibres to be woven into cloth or rope. The tree bark is also fire resistant.
  • Elephants like to eat the bark during the dry season for moisture. These trees regrow their bark if it is stripped so elephant damage is not harmful to the tree.
  • These fruit are very rich in Vitamin C and are known as ‘monkey bread’ or ‘cream of tartar fruit’.
  • When they die, they rot from the inside and suddenly collapses in on itself.

Baobab Benefits

The health benefits are becoming more and more well-known in western society. Baobab powder is now being added to health drinks and included in every day cooking too.

Here is a breakdown of the some of the proposed benefits to your health:

  • The fruit is rich in Vitamin C and B2, providing health benefits for pregnant women, children and the elderly.
  • It is said to possess antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties.
  • It contains more antioxidants than any other fruit.
  • Supports immune health and helps tissue growth and repair.
  • Beneficial for your digestive system by regulating your digestion, reducing gut inflammation and improving nutrient uptake.
  • Lowers blood pressure and improves circulation which help prevent heart disease and stroke.
  • Increases the production of collagen and elastin in your skin that keep your skin supple and wrinkle-free.
  • The calcium and magnesium support bone health, especially as we get older.
  • Vitamin C helps you burn more fat and lose more weight.
  • Improves liver function which supports your body’s natural ability to detox.

What Is Baobab Powder?

The fruit of the tree is long and elongated resembling a papaya fruit. When mature it can reach 18cm in length and weighs up to 1.4kg. It has a hard outer shell with a pulpy fruit inside that dehydrates naturally as the fruit matures.

The fruit is “wild-harvested” from the trees in their natural habitat and allowed to dry naturally. The seeds are subsequently removed from the shell and ground into a powder.

 The resulting powder contains a powerhouse of nutrients that can be added to food and drinks to be orally taken. These nutrients include vitamin C, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and an collection of antioxidants.

The fruit powder has a sweet citrus flavor that is very pleasant.

A remarkable fact is that the powder and fruit have a natural shelf-life of 3 years. So there is no need for preservatives or other additives to be included.

Fruit of the Baobab Tree
Collecting Baobab Fruit

The ‘African upside down tree’ is a very apt analogy and they have also been described as looking prehistoric. Undoubtedly they are very distinctive and you cannot miss them standing so solidly in the African landscape.

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!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is special about the baobab tree?

The baobab tree or "tree of life", can provide medicine, food, clothing, shelter and water for both the animals and humans living in the drier, hotter, African savannah's. The bark is fire resistant and is used for making carpets and rope.

Why is the baobab tree called the Tree of Life?

The name "Tree of Life" reflects how the native people view and respect this tree. It can provide water in a drought, medicine for ailments and shelter for man and animal.

Where does the baobab tree grow in Africa?

These tree species are found in the dry, more arid regions of the African continent - the island of Madagascar, West Africa, South Africa and the Lowveld of Zimbabwe.

Can you drink water from a baobab tree?

Even though they can hold such large amounts of water in their bark - it is not possible to drink water directly from the tree. The water is stored in the bark of the tree which is very porous.

What is the benefit of baobab?

The fruit and leaves are very nutritious and contain large amounts of medicinal properties. These include Vitamin C, potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium as well as large amounts of antioxidants.

What does baobab taste like?

Baobab powder has a citrus-like quality that has a sweetness to its flavor.

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