The Iconic Baobab trees

The Iconic Baobab trees, one of the most remarkable trees on earth, closely linked to local cultures and traditions, are in danger, according to NAD Africa News of May 17.

Baobab trees, called “mother of the forest, “upside-down tree,” tree of life,” also “dead rat tree” because of their strange shapes and longevity, can grow up to 1,000 years or more and grow to enormous size. They store large amounts of water in their trunks to survive dry seasons. The fruits are a super foodstuff, and the trunk can be used to produce fibres for ropes and clothing. The trees, which are important bird nesting sites, produce large white flowers that, at dusk, attract bats as pollinators over long distances to feed on their nectar.

Six of the eight baobab species with their huge stems were native to Madagascar for over 21 million years, after which the seeds were transported to Africa and Australia via ocean currents. In Madagascar, the trees grew in extensive forests. Every year, 4,000 hectares of forest are destroyed due to deforestation.

In 2020, scientific research and the community cooperated to establish an ARO-Baobab project, planting more than 50,000 baobab and other seedlings. A women's cooperative for tree nursery care was set up to generate income.

Previously, the BBC reported that researchers were shocked and called for greater protection of the trees after finding that eight of the 13 oldest and five of the six largest baobab trees had either completely died or their oldest parts had collapsed. Dr. Adrian Patrut of Babeș-Bolyai University in Romania said it is believed that this is due to climate change. “It's very sad to see them die.” The dead or dying trees were found in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zambia. All were between 1,000 and more than 2,500 years old.

Researchers from universities in South Africa, Romania, and the USA see the loss of the Baobabs as “an event of unprecedented proportions.”