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Adansonia is a genus containing eight species of trees, native to Madagascar (having six species), mainland Africa and Australia (one species in each)...
Adansonia is a genus containing eight species of trees, native to Madagascar (having six species), mainland Africa and Australia (one species in each). The mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that island.
A typical common name is baobab. Other common names include boab, boaboa, bottle tree, upside-down tree, and monkey bread tree. The species reach heights of 5 to 30 metres (16 to 98 ft) and have trunk diameters of 7 to 11 metres (23 to 36 ft). An African Baobab specimen in Limpopo Province, South Africa, often considered the largest example alive, has a circumference of 47 metres (150 ft) and an average diameter of 15 metres (49 ft).
Some baobabs are reputed to be many thousands of years old, which is difficult to verify as the wood does not produce annual growth rings, though radiocarbon dating may be able to provide age data.
The Malagasy species are important components of the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. Within that biome, A. madagascariensis and A. rubrostipa occur specifically in the Anjajavy Forest, sometimes growing out of the tsingy limestone itself.
Beginning in 2008, there has been increasing interest for developing baobab as a nutrient-rich raw material for consumer products.
The name Adansonia honours Michel Adanson, the French naturalist and explorer who described A. digitata.
Baobabs store water inside the swollen trunk (up to 120,000 litres (32,000 US gal)) to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region.All occur in seasonally arid areas, and are deciduous, shedding their leaves during the dry season.
The fruit is about 18 cm longThe leaves are commonly used as a leaf vegetable throughout the area of mainland African distribution, including Malawi, Zimbabwe, and the Sahel. They are eaten both fresh and as a dry powder. In Nigeria, the leaves are locally known as kuka, and are used to make kuka soup.
The fruit is nutritious possibly having more vitamin C than oranges and exceeding the calcium content of cow's milk. Also known as "sour gourd" or "monkey's bread", the dry fruit pulp separated from seeds and fibers is eaten directly or mixed into porridge or milk. In Malawi, the fruit pulp is used to make a nutrient-rich juice.
The fruit was once used in the production of tartar sauce. In various parts of East Africa, the dry fruit pulp is covered in sugary coating (usually with red coloring) and sold in packages as a sweet and sour candy called "ubuyu".
The seeds are mostly used as a thickener for soups, but may also be fermented into a seasoning, roasted for direct consumption, or pounded to extract vegetable oil. The tree also provides a source of fiber, dye, and fuel.
Adansonia grandidieri, Madagascar
Baobab in RecifeIndigenous Australians used baobabs as a source of water and food, and used leaves medicinally. They also painted and carved the outside of the fruits and wore them as ornaments. A very large, hollow baobab south of Derby, Western Australia was used in the 1890s as a prison for Aboriginal convicts on their way to Derby for sentencing. The Boab Prison Tree still stands and is now a tourist attraction.
The whole fruit of the baobab is not available in the EU as current EU legislations from 1997 dictate that foods not commonly consumed in the EU have to be formally approved before going on sale. On 15 July 2008, the EU authorised the use of Baobab Dried Fruit Pulp as a food ingredient in smoothies and cereal bars Food Standards Agency website. More recently, Baobab Dried Fruit Pulp achieved GRAS status for these same food uses.
A nonprofit organization, PhytoTrade Africa, plans to market the fruit for the benefit of around 2.5 million of the poorest families in southern Africa.
The Baobab Fruit Co. of Senegal currently markets baobab in Europe, and in North America through their agent Conceptula LLC.
Traditional uses of the whole fruit are unlikely outside of Africa as the fruit will be processed for export as a white powder with a cheese-like texture to be used as an ingredient in products.
Culture and myths
Tabaldi is the name of the Baobab tree in Sudan and its fruit is Gongalis. Baobab's trunk is used as a tank to store water. People in west Sudan use the hollow in the trunk to save water in the rain season. Gongalis is used to make juice or to cure stomach and other diseases.
Baobab trees are also seen in the mountain region of Saudi Arabia, near Al Baha
Rafiki, in The Lion King, makes his home in a baobab tree.
Ernst Haeckel mentions "monkey bread-fruit trees (Adansonia)" in his The History of Creation (Chap. 29), and claims that their "individual life exceeds a period of five thousand years".
The owners of Sunland Farm in Limpopo, South Africa have built a pub called "The Big Baobab Pub" inside the hollow trunk of a 22 metres (72 ft) high baobab. The tree, which is 47 m (155 ft) in circumference, is reported to have been carbon dated at over 6,000 years old.
Baobabs are cited in the The Little Prince as a tree that may "split" a small planet into pieces.