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Scientific name: Adansonia digitata;

English: baobab, cream of tartar tree;

Shona: Muwuyu, Muuyu;

Ndebele: Umkhomo;

Tonga: Mubuyu;

Kalanga: Mbuyu

The baobab is described in ‘Flora of Zimbabwe’ as a “massive” tree.  It not usually more than 20 meters in height but has a trunk up to 10 meters in diameter.  It is found in tropical and sub-tropical Africa, parts of the Middle East and India. In our country it occurs in areas below 1 200 meters above sea level, in the woodlands of hot, dry areas.

  • The body of the tree is fibrous and non-woody, more like a giant succulent.
  • Baobabs flower from October to December, the large white flowers typically opening at dusk and falling the following afternoon. The most likely pollinators are large moths or bats. The large, hard-shelled pod contains a dry white pulp surrounding the seeds which is edible and rich in vitamin C.
  • A young seedling is slender and with leaves different in appearance from those on a mature tree, and so it often goes unrecognized, giving rise to a widespread belief that there are no young baobabs – they simply spring into existence.  More disturbing are reports, for instance from the Mutare/Masvingo Road areas, that hungry people are eating the swollen, potato-like taproot of the young trees, and that in large areas there really are no young baobabs.
  • In some places two young baobabs growing close together can be seen starting to fuse into what will eventually appear to be a single tree. Some people think the Big Tree at Victoria Falls is a good example of the complete fusion of two, or possibly three, separate baobabs.

Lyn Mullin describes more than 14 different baobabs around Zimbabwe in Historic Trees of Zimbabwe.

  • He describes a group north of Nyanga Village at an altitude of about 1240m, the highest known for naturally growing baobabs in Zimbabwe.
  • Muuyu wamutota (now a National Monument) in the Dande area below the Zambezi Escarpment, the baobab at Sibuyu Pan on the old Hunters Road marking the boundary between Botswana and Zimbabwe. The pan was a busy camping place when the Pandamatenga Road was the main route to the Zambezi River and beyond before the Victoria Falls railway line was completed in 1904. The old baobab at the pan is still marked with names and initials carved by travelers.
  • The Big Tree at Victoria Falls, also a camping site for travelers preparing to cross the Zambezi at the Old Drift settlement, and also marked with names and initials.
  • The giant of Devuli Ranch in the Save Valley, at the junction of the Turwi and Gwezi Rivers. It has the biggest trunk on record in Zimbabwe at a little over 27m round. Also on Devuli Ranch, near the Msaizi River, is the tallest in Zimbabwe, at a height of 27 m.
  • Mbudhema (the Black Baobab of Tshitashawa) in Tsholotsho – unusually growing on loose, sandy soils and the only baobab for miles around
  • Sabu (the giant baobab of Nkayi) with bats living in its hollow insides.
  • Kadoma’s Baobab, which, since Lynn Mullin’s time, has become striking for continuing to live after it has fallen on its side.

contributed by Robin Wild

swimuwini - baobab
Baobab in leaf
Baobab at Swimuwini (meaning “Place of Baobabs”) Camp, southern Gonarezhou
Baobab pod and “cream of tartar” surrounding seeds
Baobabs in Gonarezhou National Park
Baobab flower
Baobab leaf form

“9 Fascinating Baobab Tree Facts

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Team Africa Geographic in the DECODING SCIENCE post series.

The baobab tree is a strange looking tree that grows in low-lying areas in Africa, Madagascar and Australia. It can grow to enormous sizes, and carbon dating indicates that they may live to be 3,000 years old. They go by many names, including boab, boaboa, tabaldi, bottle tree, upside-down tree, monkey bread tree, and the dead-rat tree (from the appearance of the fruit).

So, do you love baobabs as much as we do?

Well, here we provide some interesting facts about your favourite African tree:

1. There are nine species of the baobab tree (genus Adansonia) – six from Madagascar, two from Africa and one from Australia.

2. The baobab’s biggest enemies are drought, waterlogging, lightning, elephants and black fungus. (This author does not mention humans as one of the problems – killing the trees by using the fibrous bark to make rope, mats, handbags, etc.)

3. Baobabs are deciduous, and their bat-pollinated flowers bloom at night.

4. Baobabs store large volumes of water in their trunks – which is why elephants, eland and other animals chew the bark during the dry seasons.

5. Humans utilise baobabs for many purposes, including shelter, ceremonies, food, medicine, fibre, juices and beer.

6. Animals like baboons and warthogs eat the seed pods; weavers build their nests in the huge branches; and barn owls, mottled spinetails and ground-hornbills roost in the many hollows. The creased trunks and hollowed interiors also provide homes to countless reptiles, insects and bats.

This massive baobab tree in Gonarezhou, Zimbabwe, was used by an infamous poacher to store ivory and rhino horn. The tree is known locally as ‘Shadreck’s Office’ ©Simon Espley (If you look closely you will see the diamond mesh fence which has been wrapped around the trunk to prevent any further attacks on the bark by elephants.)

7. Cream of tartar (a cooking ingredient) was initially produced from the acidic baobab seed pulp but is now mainly sourced as a by-product from the wine-making process.

8. The massive trunks (the largest circumference on record is 47 metres) have been, or are used, as jails, post offices and bush pubs, amongst other creative uses.

9. Many baobabs live to a ripe old age – with one recently collapsed Namibian tree known as “Grootboom” thought to be 1,275 years old.”


In this episode, Gus (the African Plant Hunter) visits the pan in search of this historic tree… Dec 28, 2019 · Uploaded by African Plant Hunter

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Humans evolved in Africa. So did herbal … Introducing Gus Le Breton, the African Plant Hunter

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From one of Africa’s most instantly recognisable trees comes one of its most extraordinary fruits. Welcome to the magnificent Baobab fruit (Adansonia digitata).

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Paddy Pacey

Zimbabwean field guide and trainer of aspiring guides

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