August 2021

Baobab trees, the giants of Singita Pamushana

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Baobab trees, the giants of Singita Pamushana

 Tengwe Siabwanda
By Tengwe Siabwanda
Field Guide

These iconic trees of Africa are dotted all over the Malilangwe Reserve. They are known as the “upside down trees” because their branches look like roots. They are the biggest succulent trees in Africa. During the rain they absorb and store water in their wide trunks. These trees bloom at night with beautiful white flowers which are pollinated by fruit-eating bats.

They are very important trees in Africa - their leaves are edible and can be cooked like spinach, the white powder from the seeds is cream of tartar that is used as a cooking ingredient, the seeds can be roasted and used as coffee, and bark fibre is used to make ropes, baskets and floor mats. There are eight species of baobab tree, six in Madagascar and one each in mainland Africa and Australia.

They store large amounts of water in their trunks which is why elephants chew the bark to get water, and the trees sometimes end up dying from the damage. They are also damaged by lightning, fires, flooding and black fungus. Some tribes believe if you pick up the flowers you will be eaten by lions! It is also believed kings and elders would hold meetings under the baobab trees with the belief that the tree’s spirits would guide them in decision making.