Adansonia is a genus of Bombacaceae family whose members are popularly known as baobab tree, bottle tree or monkey bread. It contains eight species, six of which grow on the island of Madagascar, and the other two, the best known, Adansonia digitata grows in continental Africa, and the lesser known and smaller, Adansonia gibbosa in Australia. The etymology of the word ‘baobab’ is unknown, however the scientific name was coined by the Scottish botanist Michel Adanson.
The African baobab has a bottle-shaped massive trunk. Its height can vary between 5 and 30 meters and trunk diameter exceeds 11m. The bark is smooth and fibrous with little water content. The leaves sprout during the rainy season in summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere.
Adult tree leaves are compound bearing from 5 to 11 leaflets arising from same circle. Young trees have simple leaves. The flowers are hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, about 10 cm, with white petals.
All species bear fruit at the end of the dry season or early wet season. The fruit is a dry berry or a thick capsule elongated melon. Seeds are numerous, large and kidney-shaped. Wrapping seed pulp has a cream color, which varies from earthy texture according to the species and age of the fruit. Seeds live more than five years.
The baobabs take the form of a bottle during the maturity stage, from two hundred years. In good condition, on sandy soil, a temperate climate and rainfall between 300 and 500 mm, they can live up to 800 or 1000 years, although there is talk of a few that have reached 4000 years. Some baobabs are hollowed at maturity and become reservoirs in which you can store more than six thousand liters of water.
Adansonia digitata: the baobab par excellence. It grows in all semi-arid areas of mainland Africa, reaches 25 m in height and 10 meters in diameter. The cup is rounded and has one or more secondary trunks, the leaves have 5 to 7 leaflets. The fruits are globose or ovoid. In Sahel, there are four types of this species, the black crust, red bark, the bark gray and dark leafy (dark leaves). The latter has the most appreciated leaves as a vegetable, gray is best for the fiber and the other for the fruits.
Adansonia grandidieri. Found in Madagascar, it is the tallest (25 m) and thinner than the others; acilindrado and smooth. It is also the tree that has more uses and has been exploited the most. Its bark is a reddish-gray, and the mature tree is 10 to 15 cm thick. The fruit is globose, twice as long and wide. The fruit pulp is eaten fresh and seed oil is extracted for cooking. In some areas, goats feed on its fruits; pulp goats digest and expel the entire seed. Wood, sponge is rich in water and has concentric rings that show the growing years.
According to legend, lone trees of this species harbor spirits and it is not unusual for people to bring offerings at the feet of the larger trees. Adansonia gregorii (syn. A. Gibbosa). Endemic to Australia. It grows on rocky outcrops, riverbeds and flood plains of northwestern Australia . Rarely exceeds ten feet tall and the cup is irregular. Australians call it the dead rat tree or bottle tree.