The Baobab Tree

All about the mighty Baobab

The mighty baobab tree from where we get our baobab powder is a native of many areas around the world but it is in Africa where it found a home. The baobab tree has always been used extensively in many areas. Across Africa, the baobab tree is native to over 30 countries with others having introduced it in the recent past. Madagascar has a number of varieties but all other African countries have the Adansonia digitata species only.

The baobab tree is not just an affirmer of life and enormous; it’s large enough to spot from very far on any horizon. In Namibia and one of the driest of places in Africa where the baobab is found, there is a baobab tree with a diameter of 36 meters.

The immense benefits of the baobab have made inroads in the western world. Ostensibly, the fruits of the baobab tree are believed to offer nutritional, health, diet, wellness and medicinal benefits in its raw or manufactured form in products such as chocolate and juices, among others.

But there is something about the baobab that has withstood the test of time making it a mystery gigantic tree with its own myths and stories. Baobab does not have rings and determining its age is another matter. It’s believed to live between half a millennium and five millennia. In a continent where the elders are revered, the baobab is definitely one of the elder plants still alive and when it dies, drums are played in mourning, especially in such countries as Burkina Faso, a rite reserved only for the revered of chiefs.

baobab tree

Baobab Tree Myths and Legends

Thora and the Baobab

There are several different stories and myths that surround why the baobab tree looks as though it is growing upside down. The story of the god, Thora and the baobab tree is a short and simply one. Thora, also known as Cagn, Kaang and Kho, was the god who created the world and as he was out walking in his garden one day, he saw the baobab tree growing and didn’t like it. So he ripped it from the ground and threw it over the wall of Paradise, where it fell to Earth. The baobab tree landed upside down, but instead of dying, it simply continued to grow.

Yahweh and the Walking Baobab

Another tale of why the baobab tree grows “upside down” is that God (Jehovah or Yahweh) was creating the world and planted the baobab tree, except when He planted the tree, it kept moving, walking across the earth. So God pulled it up and turned it upside down, then replanted it, all so the baobab tree would stop moving.

The Hyena and the Baobab

A different myth about the appearance of the baobab tree also involves God, but is slightly different to the one above. In this story, God is planting the trees on the earth and decides to get each of the animals to help him. So God gave every animal a different tree to plant and they all went about their tasks quite happily, all except for the hyena. The hyena was given the baobab tree and he didn’t plant it with care. Instead he shoved it into the earth, upside down.

Now everyone knows how stupid the hyena is. When he went out, he planted the baobab tree upside down. That is why the roots look like they are growing in the air and the leaves are buried out of sight in the ground.

The Ugly Baobab

The fourth story about the baobab tree and its root-like branches is one that many can relate to due to the parallels of body image that can be drawn. The story says that the first baobab tree was growing next to a small lake. When it was small it didn’t notice what the other trees around it looked like, but as it grew taller it began to see that the other trees all looked very different to it. There were some that were tall and slender, others had large leaves and there were even some with brightly colored flowers, but when the baobab tree looked at its reflection in the lake, it did not see a beautiful slender tree with large leaves and colourful flowers. Instead the baobab tree saw a fat trunk with wrinkled and ugly bark, instead of brightly colored flowers, there were pale and cream flowers and its leaves were not big, they were tiny.

The baobab tree got quite upset and went to the creator and asked “Why did you make me so ugly? Why couldn’t you make me elegant like the palm tree with its slender and straight trunk? Why did you have to make me so big and fat? Look at the masses of bright and beautiful flowers of the flame tree! What about me? Why couldn’t you give me flowers like that?” The baobab complained for hours and days about how unfair the creator had been and its complaints became worse when it saw the fruit on the fig tree.

The creator listened to the baobab tree as it complained until he could listen no longer to the constant complaints that he seized the baobab tree from the ground and determined that the baobab should no longer be able to complain, turned it upside down and planted back in the ground.

The baobab tree could no longer see its reflection, nor could it complain and because it complained for so long and frustrated the creator, it is now the most helpful and useful tree, trying to amend for offending the creator.

The Loving Baobabs

 

Madagascar has an interesting baobab legend that comes from one of the six species of baobab tree that can be found on the island. The Baobab Amoureux is a species of baobab where two Adansonia za trees have twisted around each other as they have grown.

It is believed that the Baobab Amoureux came into being because of a tragic love story. The legend says that centuries ago there lived a young man and a young woman. The lived in villages that were close to each other and, over time, the two fell in love and wanted to be together forever.

However, this could not be, as both the young man and young woman were already betrothed to people from their own villages, but neither would give up their impossible dream of marrying and having a child. So they secretly asked their god for help.

Though their god did not allow them to marry, he brought the two baobab trees into existence that grew together over the centuries, together as a single entity for all eternity as the young man and young woman had wished to be.

Baobab Tree Flowers

As the baobab tree flowers bloom during the night, there is a myth that has been created surrounding them. It I believed by Bushmen that whoever plucks the flowers from the baobab tree will be torn apart by lions because the flowers are not simply flowers; they are flowers that are inhabited by spirits.

Baobab Tree Powder

The pips of the baobab tree are also thought to have magical properties. It is said that if you drink water made from the ground pips of the baobab tree  you will become mighty and be protected from crocodiles.

Baobab Tree Facts

All baobab trees belong to the same genus Adansonia; there are 6 baobab tree species in Madagascar, two from Africa and one from Australia.

Baobab trees can be up to 36 feet in daimeter and over 90 feet high

Baobab tree fruit weigh up to 1.5kg

Baobab trees can store up to 100,000 litres of water within their trunk.

Baobab trees can reach an age of 3,000 years.

Baobab trees flower at night, with their flowers pollinated by bats.

The Baobab Tree is known as the tree of life – providing food, water and shelter to humans and animals

Due to the huge trunk of the baobab tree they have been used as poachers hideouts, bars, prisons, post offices and even as a toilet.

baobab tree facts

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