Adansonia digitata (Baobab,
Kremetart, Kremetartboom [Afrikaans]; motsoo [North Sotho];
omukura [Ovambo]; ximuwu, shimuwu [Tsonga]; mowana, movana [Tswana]; muvhuyu [Venda]; isiMuku
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Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants)
> Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants)
> Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering
plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids >
Eurosid II > Order: Malvales > Family: Malvaceae > Genus: Adansonia
Of the 8 species of Adansonia,
this is the only species that occurs in Africa. The Baobab is one of the
most well known African tree species, partly because of its extraordinary size
and appearance but also because of its many uses.
Baobabs can grow to a moderate height of about 10-22 m but
their most impressive feature is the huge, broad trunk which can reach over 15 m
in diameter. In winter when the tree has lost its leaves, it has the appearance
of having been turned upside down, hence the name, Upside-down Tree.
The largest baobabs in South
(from Esterhuyse et al. 2001)
Trunk diameter (m)
Crown diameter (m)
Glencoe tree, near Hoedspruit
Platland tree, near Duiwelskloof
Buffelsdrift tree, Potgietersrus district
Sagole tree, east of Tshipise
Taking all measurements into account, the Sagole tree is
regarded as being the largest of the 4 listed above and overall is regarded as
the largest tree in South Africa. The record largest diameter tree trunk
in the world is of a Mexican Bald Cypress tree Taxodium mucronatum in
Mexico which has a diameter of 18.4 m (Esterhuyse et
Tree diameter is influenced by rainfall, the trunk
becoming narrower in dry years. For instance, a tree measured in 1946 was 60 cm
less in diameter than it was in 1931.
The age of these large baobabs cannot be reliably
established using tree rings. Carbon dating has shown that a 7 m diameter tree
is about 600 years old, so a large tree is probably over 1000 years old. This
age is a lot less than some previous estimates that have been placed at over
5000 years old.
Occurs in savanna / woodland regions south of the Sahara.
Within South Africa, the Baobab is found mainly in Limpopo Province, although
its distribution does extend marginally into northern Northwest Province and northern
Explanation of names
Adansonia: Named after a French surgeon Michel
digitata: hand-shaped, referring to the shape of
- Large trees often become hollowed out and such
cavities have been used by people as houses, prisons, post offices,
bars, storage barns and toilets.
- Plants are grown as bonsai specimens.
- Fallen flowers provide food for cattle.
- The pith of the fruit contains high levels of
ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), tartaric acid and citric acid and is used
in producing a refreshing drink. This drink is used medicinally
to treat fevers, diarrhoea, and
(spitting of blood from the lungs). The fruit can also be eaten, fresh
- Pith and seeds are nutritious and are fed to stock when grazing is
poor, especially near the end of the dry season.
- Seeds are eaten fresh or dried.
- They can also be ground into a
powder used as a substitute for coffee.
- Young leaves are eaten as a spinach or the leaves can be dried and
ground into a powder that can be stored for later use. Leaves are rich in
vitamin C, sugars and potassium tartrate.
- Fallen leaves provide food for cattle.
- The leaves are used medicinally against fever
by reducing sweating and acting as an
by tightening mucous membranes thus reducing mucous secretions.
- In West Africa, the leaves (and bark) are used for treating
urinary disorders and diarrhoea.
- The inner bark yields a fibre that is used for rope, baskets, nets
and fishing lines.
- In West Africa, a decoction
is made from the bark and used for treating urinary disorders and
- Roots can be tapped for water.
- Young roots are cooked and eaten.
Leaves on the tree are eaten by game such as
Elephant, Kudu, Nyala and Impala. Fallen leaves and flowers are eaten by game as well as
cattle. Elephant tear off pieces of stem for the moisture they
contain and in the process can kill trees. Baobabs in areas with high
elephant densities can be devastated by this destructive feeding
The large white flowers (13-18 cm
diameter) are pollinated by fruit bats (Chiroptera: Megachiroptera).
Esterhuyse, N., von Breitenbach, J. &
Söhnge, H. 2001. Remarkable Trees of South Africa. Briza
van Wyk, B., van Oudtshoorn, B. & Gericke,
N. 2000. Medicinal Plants of South Africa. Briza Publications,
Wickens, G.E. 1982. The baobab - Africa's
upside-down tree. Kew Bulletin 37: 173-209.