African Baobab (Adansonia digitata) tree in Bagamoyo, Tanzania near the Kaole ruins
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Subfamily: Bombacoideae
Genus: Adansonia

See Species section

Adansonia is a genus of eight species of tree, six native to Madagascar, one native to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and one to Australia. The mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that island.

A typical common name is baobab. Other common names include boab, boaboa, bottle tree, upside-down tree, and monkey bread tree. The generic name honours Michel Adanson, the French naturalist and explorer who described A. digitata.


Adansonias reach heights of 5 to 30 metres (16 to 98 ft) and have trunk diameters of 7 to 11 metres (23 to 36 ft). Glencoe baobab - an African baobab specimen in Limpopo Province, South Africa, often considered the largest example alive, up to recent times had a circumference of 47 metres (154 ft).[2] Its diameter is estimated at about 15.9 metres (52 ft). Recently the tree split up into two parts and it is possible that the stoutest tree now is Sunland baobab, also in South Africa. The diameter of this tree is 10.64 m, with an approximate circumference of 33.4 metres.

Some baobabs are reputed to be many thousands of years old, which is difficult to verify, as the wood does not produce annual growth rings, though radiocarbon dating may be able to provide age data.


The Malagasy species are important components of the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. Within that biome, A. madagascariensis and A. rubrostipa occur specifically in the Anjajavy Forest, sometimes growing out of the tsingy limestone itself.

A. digitata has been photographed growing in salt plains and by the sea, so may be a halophyte (salt tolerant).[3][4]


Water storage

Baobabs store water inside the swollen trunk (up to 120,000 litres / 32,000 US gallons) to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region.[6] All occur in seasonally arid areas, and are deciduous, shedding their leaves during the dry season.


The fruit is about 18 cm long

Since 2008, there has been increasing interest for developing baobab as a nutrient-rich raw material for consumer products.[7][8]

The leaves are commonly used as a leaf vegetable throughout the area of mainland African distribution, including Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the Sahel. They are eaten both fresh and as a dry powder. In Nigeria, the leaves are locally known as kuka, and are used to make kuka soup.[9][unreliable source?]

The fruit offers some nutrients, possibly having more vitamin C than oranges, and perhaps significant calcium content,[10] but nutrient qualities of the dried fruit powder available in some developed countries remain undefined scientifically.

The dry fruit pulp, separated from seeds and fibers, is eaten directly or mixed into porridge or milk, and is also known as "sour gourd" or "monkey's bread". In Malawi, the fruit pulp is used to make juice.[10] In Zimbabwe, the fruit is known as mawuyu in the Shona language and has long been a traditional fruit. In the coastal areas of Kenya, baobab seeds, called mbuyu, are cooked with sugar, colored, and sold as a snack.[citation needed] Mabuyu is also the term used in Tanzania for seeds of the calabash gourd, which are prepared in a similar fashion.

The fruit can be used to produce cream of tartar.[11] In various parts of East Africa, the dry fruit pulp is covered in sugary coating (usually with red coloring) and sold in packages as a sweet and sour candy called umbuyu.

The seeds are mostly used as a thickener for soups, but may also be fermented into a seasoning, roasted for direct consumption, or pounded to extract vegetable oil. The tree also provides a source of fiber, dye, and fuel.

The dry pulp is either eaten fresh or used to add to gruels on cooling after cooking – a good way of preserving the vitamin contents. It can also be ground to make a refreshing drink with a pleasing wine-gum flavour. In Tanzania, it is added to aid fermentation of sugar cane for beer making.[12]

Pulp can be stored for fairly long periods for use in soft drink production, but it needs airtight containers. Storage is improved by the use of sodium metabisulphite (Ibiyemi et al., 1988). It can also be frozen if ground to a powder.

Baobab in Recife

Indigenous Australians used baobabs as a source of water and food, and used leaves medicinally. They also painted and carved the outside of the fruits and wore them as ornaments. A very large, hollow baobab south of Derby, Western Australia was used in the 1890s as a prison for Aboriginal convicts on their way to Derby for sentencing. The Boab Prison Tree still stands and is now a tourist attraction.

Pepsi Japan has used baobabs in a limited-edition carbonated soda called Baobab Pepsi that is described as having a citrus taste.[13]

The whole fruit of the baobab is not available in the EU, as current EU legislation from 1997 dictates that foods not commonly consumed in the EU have to be formally approved before going on sale. On 15 July 2008, the EU authorized the use of baobab dried fruit pulp as a food ingredient in smoothies and cereal bars.[14] More recently, dried fruit pulp achieved GRAS status for these same food uses.[15]

Traditional uses of the whole fruit are unlikely outside of Africa, as the fruit will be processed for export as a white powder with a cheese-like texture to be used as an ingredient in products.[10]

Culture and myths (not cultivation)

  • Tabaldi is the name of the baobab tree in Sudan, and its fruit is gongalis. Baobab's trunk is used as a tank to store water. People in west Sudan use the hollow in the trunk to save water in the rainy season. Gongalis is used to make juice or to cure stomach and other diseases.[citation needed]
  • Baobab trees are also seen in the mountain region of Saudi Arabia, near Al Bahah.
  • Rafiki, in The Lion King, makes his home in a baobab tree.
  • Ernst Haeckel mentions "monkey bread-fruit trees" (Adansonia) in his The History of Creation (Chap. 29), and claims their "individual life exceeds a period of five thousand years".
  • The owners of Sunland Farm in Limpopo, South Africa have built a pub called "The Big Baobab Pub" inside the hollow trunk of the 22 metres (72 ft) high Sunland baobab. The tree is 47 m (155 ft) in circumference, and is reported to have been carbon dated at over 6,000 years old.[16][17]
  • The Senegalese band Orchestra Baobab is named for the Baobab Club in Dakar, which in turn takes its name from the tree.
  • Singer Regina Spektor has a song called "Baobabs".
  • Baobabs are cited in The Little Prince as a tree that may "split" a small planet into pieces.
  • The Savanaur Baobabs are three trees of 14–18 m girth, believed to be 5000 years old, which can be found in Savanur, Karnataka, India.
  • In parts of Zambia and Zimbabwe, local lore states that God was so displeased by the taste of the fruit of the baobab that he turned it upside down so that its roots are on top, thus giving it the odd shape.[citation needed]



  1. ^ "Genus: Adansonia L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United State Department of Agriculture. 2008-11-12. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  2. ^ "Big Baobab Facts". Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  3. ^ – Baobab growing in a salt plain (access date 2010-07-19)
  4. ^ – Baobabs growing close to the sea (access date 2010-07-19)
  5. ^ "GRIN Species Records of Adansonia". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United State Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  6. ^ "The Baobab tree in Senegal". Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  7. ^ "Scientists predict African fruit trees could help solve major public health problem". Bioversity International. Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  8. ^ Hills S. "Baobab goes for GRAS ahead of 2010 World Cup", September 30, 2008
  9. ^ – The oldest trees in the world (access date 2010-09-13)
  10. ^ a b c "New exotic fruit to hit UK shops". BBC. 2008-07-15. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  11. ^ "Baobab tree -- a miracle of nature". Geo-Images Project. October 2000. Retrieved 2010-02-12. 
  12. ^ M. Sidibe and J. T. Williams 2002. Baobab International Centre for Underutilised Crops, University of Southampton
  13. ^ Newzjapan
  14. ^ Statement from UK Food Standards Agency
  15. ^ FDA website
  16. ^ Fancy a pint in the world's only bar that's INSIDE a tree?, Daily Mail, December 2007 Retrieved 20 December 2007
  17. ^ Of all the gin joints in all the world, Tristan McConnell in the Big Baobab Pub, Modjadjiskloof, South Africa, The Times, January 2007, Retrieved 20 December 2007

Further reading

  • Baum, D. A.; Small, R. L.; Wendel, J. F. (1998). "Biogeography and floral evolution of baobabs (Adansonia, Bombacaceae) as inferred from multiple data sets". Systematic Biology 47 (2): 181–207. doi:10.1080/106351598260879. PMID 12064226. 
  • Braun, K. (1900) Beiträge zur Anatomie der Adansonia digitata L. F. Reinhardt, Universitäts-Buchdruckerei, Basel, OCLC 15926986
  • Colin, Tudge (2006, 2005). The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter (1st U.S. ed.). New York, NY: Crown Publishers. ISBN 1-4000-5036-7. OCLC 64336118. 
  • Lowe, Pat. The Boab Tree. Port Melbourne, Australia: Lothian. ISBN 0-85091-912-6. OCLC 39079651. 
  • Pakenham, Thomas (2004). The Remarkable Baobab (1st American ed.). New York, NY: Norton. ISBN 0-393-05989-8. OCLC 56844554. 
  • Watson, Rupert (2007). The African Baobab. Cape Town, South Africa; London, England: Struik; New Holland. ISBN 978-1-77007-430-9. OCLC 163617611. 
  • Wickens, G. E.; Lowe, Pat (2008). The Baobabs: Pachycauls of Africa, Madagascar and Australia. Berlin, Germany; New York, NY: Springer Verlag. ISBN 978-1-4020-6430-2. OCLC 166358049. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Adansonia — Adansonia …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Adansonia za — Systematik Ordnung: Malvenartige (Malvales) Familie …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Adansonia za — Adansonia za …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Adansonĭa — L., nach Andanson benannte Pflanzengattung der Malvazeen, Bäume in Afrika und Australien mit gefingerten, drei bis neunzähligen Blättern, aus den Blattwinkeln herabhängenden einzelnen Blüten, länglicher, nicht aufspringender Frucht mit holziger… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Adansonia — Ad an*so ni*a, n. [From Adanson, a French botanist.] (Bot.) A genus of great trees related to the Bombax. There are two species, {Adansonia digitata}, the baobab or monkey bread of Africa and India, and {Adansonia Gregorii}, the sour gourd or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adansonia — género de árboles de la familia de las bombacáceas. La A. digitada es el boabad, árbol gigantesco de la savana africana y de la India. Sus hojas tienen propiedades febrífugas imagen [véase] monografía… …   Diccionario médico

  • adansônia — s. f. [Botânica] Gênero de árvores bombacáceas de grandes dimensões. = BAOBÁ, BAOBABE, EMBONDEIRO   ♦ Grafia em Portugal: adansónia …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • adansónia — s. f. [Botânica] Gênero de árvores bombacáceas de grandes dimensões. = BAOBÁ, BAOBABE, EMBONDEIRO   ♦ Grafia no Brasil: adansônia …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • Adansonia — (A. L.), Pflanzengattung, nach Vor. benannt, aus der Familie der Sterculiaceae Bombaceae, Monadelphie Polyandrie L.; Art: A. digitata (Affenbrotbaum), Baum zwischen dem Senegal u. dem Grünen Vorgebirge in Afrika, in Westindien angebaut, mit… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Adansonia — Adansonĭa L., Pflanzengattg., s. Affenbrotbaum …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • adansonia — ● adansonia nom masculin (de M. Adanson, nom propre) Nom générique du baobab …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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