The African Baobab

Adansonia digitata  (World's oldest inhabitant)

The tree of life, the majestic Baobab, is one of the longest living and largest trees in the world. Native to the African soil and a rarity in India, it is nestled at the heart of Chinmaya Vidyalaya's campus at Ilanthope, Rajapalayam. The stupendous grandeur of this mighty monarch of our sylvan surroundings amazes you with its extraordinary size and girth.

Factfile of this Mammoth Living Legend

Scientific name Adansonia digitata
Common names Baobab, Bottle tree, Monkey bread tree, Upside down tree
Indian names Kalpataru, Kamalpati Vruksh, Rukhdo, Ghelo, Vilaiti Imli (Hindi), Pondam Puli (Tamil), Anai Puliamaram (Tamil)
Historical evidences Finds mention in the Vedas and the Mahabharatha.
Popular myth Wishing before the tree brings fulfilment


Distribution

The name Adansonia honours Michael Adanson, the French naturalist who described it in 1750. Adansonia is a genus of nine species of tree, including six native to Madagascar, two native to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and one native to Australia. Adansonia digitata is found only in Africa and Madagascar. It grows to reach enormous proportions.

Description

The trunk may vary in size, depending on how much water it needs to store for the season. One of the largest baobabs in South Africa has a circumference of 46.8m (152 ft). These colossal forms are noted for storing water up to 120,000 litres inside their swollen trunks to endure harsh drought conditions.

Bark

The bark is grey or silvery, purple tinged and dimpled. The trunk is monstrous and the cork-like bark is fire resistant. When the tree sheds its leaves in summer, the spreading branches look like roots sticking up into the air, as if it were planted upside down.

Leaves

The leaves are palmately compound on a long stalk without any stalk of their own.

Flowers

The tree flowers for the first time at about 20 years of age. Flowering occurs mostly during the months of August, September & October. The flowers are large and pendulous. The flower cup with five white petals is bent backwards and the stamens with numerous golden anthers form a beautiful ball. The flowers bloom at dusk and wilt by dawn. They have a distinct musky odour that enables pollination by fruit bats.


Fruit


Fruiting occurs during April and May. The fruit is a large, egg-shaped capsule covered with yellowish brown hairs. A hard woody outer shell covers the hard, black, kidney shaped seeds. It contains Tartaric acid and Vitamin C and can either be sucked and eaten or soaked in water to make a refreshing drink.



Baobab - One of the oldest life forms on earth

The life span of Baobabs is even baffling. They may reach a mind-boggling age of over 5000 years and are termed as the 'Organic monument of our planet'. A recent work using carbon dating techniques as well as a study of growth rings by the South African National Biodiversity Institute suggests that a baobab tree with a diameter of 10m could be as old as 2000 years.


Baobab - The toughest warrior who can survive the odds

Baobabs can be burnt or stripped of their bark or uprooted by storm, but they will just form a new bark and continue to grow. When they do die, they simply rot from inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibres, which makes people think that they don't die but simply disappear. No wonder, they are thought of as magic trees.


Unlimited uses guaranteed by this colossal member of our natural world

Because of their exceptional vitality, the African people consider them as sacred trees. An old Baobab can create its own ecosystem, as it supports the life of countless creatures. Our Baobab teems with rose-ringed parakeets, besides sheltering other creatures like the honeybees, bats and other birds.

  • Leaves are rich in calcium, iron, proteins and lipid, and are used to fight inflammation.
  • Its dried leaf powder fights anaemia, asthma, rachitis, dysentery and rheumatism.
  • Its fruit pulp fights dysentery, small pox and measles.
  • Fibre from the bark is used for making rope, cloth, mats, baskets and paper.
  • The seeds are full of vegetable oil, and can be grilled and eaten.
  • A kind of glue is obtained from the pollen.

So, it goes without saying that, if lost without water, food and shelter, find a great baobab tree that can house you throughout your lifetime.


Baobabs in India

  • Giant Baobabs dot the Vindhya hills and the plateau of Madhya Pradesh.
  • About 100 trees have also been recorded in Gujarat.

OUR BAOBAB (ADANSONIA DIGITATA)

The Giant sized senior most member of our Chinmayan family

This oldest life form of our locality with its incredible size is the most revered member of our Chinmayan nature club.

As on 1st June 2008

Height 23.80 m (78.08 ft)
Diameter @ 4.5' 4.034 m (13.25 ft)
Canopy diameter 12.56 m (41.2 ft)
Age 700 years (approximately)

No one exactly knows how the African Baobab was introduced to India. It was an African custom to carry seeds as emergency ration during a journey. The baobab seeds were a special treasure like the pistachonuts and tamarind seeds. Baobabs are believed to have been brought to the west coast of India by Arab traders more than a millennium ago from sub-Saharan Africa.


As a mark of appreciation for our baobab, we call her 'The great grandma of our campus' - a baobab can indeed sustain life way beyond our lifetime. Having declared it as a proud heritage of our school, we ensure that the sanctity of this wonderful world treasure is safeguarded in the ecosystem of our campus.