Baobab is one of the oldest and biggest trees in the world. It is native to most parts of tropical Africa. It does not reach its final size until it is app. 1,000 years old, and it is estimated that it may reach 3,000 years and a height and circumference of 30 metres. It is also known as monkey-bread-treee and is related to cotton and cocoa.
The tree has a characteristic appearance with its trunk and tapering branches, resembling roots. This makes it seem like the tree is turned upside down.
African villagers are frequent users of baobab. They eat the fruits and leaves and use bark fibres for basket weaving. In addition, the large circumference of the trees make them ideal for seeking shadow from the fierce sun.
The fruit is a large capsule, developing from the large white hanging flowers of the tree. The pulp has a natural sweet/sour taste.
A mythical tree
There are several myths to explain the rather odd appearance of the baobab tree.
One of them says that the tree wanted to become the most beautiful tree in the whole world. It did not succeed and became so embarassed that it hid its head in the ground.
Another myth says that the tree once attracted the wrath of the Norse god Thor. He threw the tree over the wall of Paradise, and it landed on its head with its roots in the air.
A third - and somewhat more tragic - myth tells the story of a baobab tree that fell in love with four young girls who lived in its shadow. As the girls grew older and found their future husbands, the tree became very jealous, and one night during a terrible storm it opened its trunk and swallowed the girls. That earned it its name ”Kondanamwali”, which means ”The tree that eats virgins”. According to the myth you may still hear the desperate crying of the girls in the night.