If a tree could produce offspring the same way as a human then the Baobab tree would be the expression of its pregnancy. Its bloated trunk storing enough water to feed it through the tropical dry season is the main feature of this amazing tree.
Introducing Baobab Trees
Native to Africa and India, predominantly focusing around the equator is Adansonia digitata while its counterpart Adansonia gregorii is native to northern Australia. In Africa, every part of the baobab is used by indigenous peoples.
The fruit can be eaten, leaves are used for medicinal purposes and the bark and roots are used to make rope or cloth. In early Australian culture they were even used as Prison trees.
I remember first seeing these trees springing out of a desolate earth when I drove to Kununurra nearly 20 years ago. As the vegetation changed and plants became lower to the ground these towering baobab trees (“Boab” in Australian) stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Silhouetted against a dimming red sky their deciduous form took on a gracefulness that defied comprehension. The baobab’s limbs hardly move in the breeze and it takes a tropical cyclone to see them sway in any visible manner.
The Deciduous Baobab
For nine months of the year the baobab has no leaves and flowers only during the summer. It sets seed pods toward the end of summer maturing in early winter which contain kidney shaped seeds that are hard and predominantly white.
It is possible to grow a baobab tree in your backyard without living in the tropics – but it isn’t easy. Firstly your gardening zone needs to be frost free with a fairly low annual rainfall. Warm summers and mild winters are the baobab’s preferred growing climate and they don’t need much watering.
How to Propagate a Boab Tree
To propagate from seed you will need to scarify the kidney shaped seed with a file and then soak in hot water for a couple of hours. Smoking them may also be beneficial providing the seed doesn’t dry out. Then plant in a well draining potting mix and leave on a window ledge to sprout.
Baobab trees are slow growing reaching a maximum height of 15-20 m (50-65 ft) with a similar sized circumference.
Looking for more large trees to grow in your garden? If you have the space and patience, get to know the Giant Sequoia trees.