Comprehensive Description


Description as for the family.
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Thickness stabilizes tall trees: baobob

The trunk of the tall baobab tree compensates for the weak, water-storing stem via thick bark.

  "The adaptive significance of building a stem out of weak, low density wood is not immediately apparent, particularly as extensive use of stored water does not appear possible under this strategy. Baobab trees, however, have very thick bark, a design feature that contributes significantly to overall structural stability of the stem and may compensate for the reductions in stem stiffness that would otherwise occur through moderate use of stem water. More detailed biomechanical and energetic analyses may demonstrate that baobab trees can actually achieve greater strength for a given energy investment that other trees, and the possibility that the maintenance of a large quantity of living parenchyma cells is somehow advantageous, whether for carbohydrate storage or recovery from traumatic injury, cannot be discounted." (Chapotin et al. 2006:1263)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Chapotin, S. M.; Razanameharizaka, J. H.; Holbrook, N. M. 2006. A biomechanical perspective on the role of large stem volume and high water content in baobab trees (Adansonia spp.; Bombacaceae). American Journal of Botany. 93(9): 1251-1264.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:11
Specimens with Sequences:13
Specimens with Barcodes:12
Species With Barcodes:1
Public Records:4
Public Species:1
Public BINs:0
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Barcode data

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"Baobab" redirects here. For other uses, see Baobab (disambiguation).
"Upside-down tree" redirects here. For the famous European beech tree in Hyde Park, London, see Fagus sylvatica § Distribution and habitat.

Adansonia is a genus of nine species of tree, including six native to Madagascar, two native to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and one native to Australia. One of the mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that island, and was introduced in ancient times to south Asia and during the colonial era to the Caribbean. It is also present in the island of Cape Verde.[2] The ninth species was described in 2012, incorporating upland populations of southern and eastern Africa.[3]

A typical common name is baobab. The generic name honours Michel Adanson, the French naturalist and explorer who described Adansonia digitata.

Adansonias reach heights of 5 to 30 m (16 to 98 ft) and have trunk diameters of 7 to 11 m (23 to 36 ft). The Glencoe baobab, a specimen of A. digitata in Limpopo Province, South Africa, was considered to be the largest living individual, with a maximum circumference of 47 m (154 ft)[4] and a diameter of about 15.9 m (52 ft). The tree has since split into two parts, so the widest individual trunk may now be that of the Sunland baobab, or Platland tree, also in South Africa. The diameter of this tree at ground level is 9.3 m (31 ft) and its circumference at breast height is 34 m (112 ft).[5]

Adansonia trees produce faint growth rings, probably annually, but they are not reliable for aging specimens, because they are difficult to count and may fade away as the wood ages. Radiocarbon dating has provided data on a few individuals. A specimen of A. digitata known as Grootboom was dated and found to be at least 1275 years old, making it among the oldest known angiosperm trees.[5][6]


The Malagasy species are important components of the Madagascar dry deciduous forests. Within that biome, Adansonia madagascariensis and A. rubrostipa occur specifically in the Anjajavy Forest, sometimes growing out of the tsingy limestone itself. A. digitata has been called "a defining icon of African bushland".[6]


Species include:[7]

Water storage[edit]

Baobabs store water in the trunk (up to 100,000 litres or 26,000 US gallons) to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region.[8] All occur in seasonally arid areas, and are deciduous, shedding their leaves during the dry season.


Since 2008, there has been increasing interest for developing baobab seeds or dried fruit powder for consumer products.[9][10] As of 2010, the potential international market was estimated at $1 billion per year.[11]

Some species are also sources of fiber, dye, and fuel. Indigenous Australians used the native species A. gregorii for several products, making string from the root fibers and decorative crafts from the fruits. The fresh fruit is said to taste like sherbet.[12] A large, hollow baobab south of Derby, Western Australia, was used in the 1890s as a prison for convicts on their way to Derby for sentencing. The Boab Prison Tree, Derby, still stands and is now a tourist attraction.[13]

The leaves of A. digitata are eaten as a leaf vegetable.[6] The seeds of some species are a source of vegetable oil.[14][15]

The fruit has a velvety shell and is about the size of a coconut,[11] weighing about 1.5 kilograms (3.3 lb). It has an acidic, tart flavor, described as "somewhere between grapefruit, pear, and vanilla".[11][16]

The dried fruit powder of A. digitata contains about 12% water and modest levels of various nutrients, including carbohydrates, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and phytosterols, with low levels of protein and fats.[16][17][18][19] Its contents of dietary fiber (approximately 50% by weight), ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and thiamin were assessed to be especially high.[16]

In Zimbabwe, the fruit is used in traditional food preparations which include "eating the fruit fresh or crushed crumbly pulp to stir into porridge and drinks".[11] Malawi women have set up commercial ventures harvesting the baobab to earn their children's school fees.[11]

In the European Union (EU) prior to commercial approval, baobab fruit powder was not available for ingredient uses, as legislation from 1997 dictated that foods not commonly consumed in the EU would have to be formally approved first. In 2008, baobab dried fruit pulp was authorized in the EU as a safe food ingredient,[20] and it was later granted GRAS status in the United States.[21]

Food uses[edit]

The powdery white interior may be used as a "thickener in jams and gravies, a sweetener for fruit drinks, or a tangy flavor addition to hot sauces."[11][18] The fruit pulp and seeds of A. grandidieri[14] and A. za are eaten fresh.[15] In Tanzania, the dry pulp of A. digitata is added to sugar cane to aid fermentation in beermaking.[22] The flavor of limited-release Japanese soda Pepsi Baobab was described as "liberating" by PepsiCo.[23]

In Angola the dry fruit is usually boiled and the broth is used for juices or as the base for a type of ice cream known as gelado de múcua.


Baobabs are important as nest sites for birds, in particular the mottled spinetail[24] and four species of weaver.[25]



  1. ^ "Genus: Adansonia L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United State Department of Agriculture. 2008-11-12. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  2. ^ Wickens, G. E.; Lowe, P. (2008). The Baobabs: Pachycauls of Africa, Madagascar and Australia. Berlin, Germany; New York, NY: Springer Verlag. ISBN 978-1-4020-6430-2. OCLC 166358049. 
  3. ^ a b Pettigrew, J. D., et al. (2012). "Morphology, ploidy and molecular phylogenetics reveal a new diploid species from Africa in the baobab genus Adansonia (Malvaceae: Bombacoideae)". Taxon 61: 1240–1250. 
  4. ^ "Big Baobab Facts". Archived from the original on 2008-01-06. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  5. ^ a b Patrut, A., et al. (2010). Fire history of a giant African baobab evinced by radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon 52(2), 717-26.
  6. ^ a b c "Adansonia digitata (baobab)". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  7. ^ "GRIN Species Records of Adansonia". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United State Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  8. ^ "The Baobab tree in Senegal". Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  9. ^ "Scientists predict African fruit trees could help solve major public health problem". Bioversity International. Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  10. ^ Hills, Sarah (2008-09-30). "Baobab goes for GRAS ahead of 2010 World Cup". FoodNavigator-USA.com. William Reed Business Media. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f Lange, Karen E. (2010-08-19). "Vitamin Tree". National Geographic (from magazine, also online). Archived from the original on 2010-08-22. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  12. ^ "Adansonia gregorii". Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  13. ^ "Tourist Information: Derby". Shire of Derby, West Kimberley. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  14. ^ a b Ambrose-Oji, B. and N. Mughogho. 2007. Adansonia grandidieri Baill. In: van der Vossen, H. A. M. and G. S. Mkamilo (Eds). PROTA 14: Vegetable oils/Oléagineux. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
  15. ^ a b Ambrose-Oji, B. and N. Mughogho. 2007. Adansonia za Baill. In: van der Vossen, H. A. M. and G. S. (Eds). PROTA 14: Vegetable oils/Oléagineux. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
  16. ^ a b c Herbal Sciences International (2006). "Baobab dried fruit pulp – An application for novel foods approval in the EU as a food ingredient". UK Food Standards Agency. Retrieved 2012-06-03. 
  17. ^ Osman, M. A. (2004). "Chemical and nutrient analysis of baobab (Adansonia digitata) fruit and seed protein solubility". Plant Foods Hum Nutr 59 (1): 29–33. doi:10.1007/s11130-004-0034-1. PMID 15675149. 
  18. ^ a b "New exotic fruit to hit UK shops". BBC. 2008-07-15. Archived from the original on 2008-07-19. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  19. ^ Chadare, F. J., et al. (2009). "Baobab food products: a review on their composition and nutritional value". Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 49 (3): 254–74. doi:10.1080/10408390701856330. PMID 19093269. 
  20. ^ "Baobab dried fruit pulp". UK Food Standards Agency. 2008. Retrieved 2012-06-03. 
  21. ^ "Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice No. GRN 000273". Fda.gov. 
  22. ^ Sidibe, M., et al. Baobab, Adansonia digitata L. Volume 4 of Fruits for the Future. International Centre for Underutilised Crops, 2002.
  23. ^ "Baobab cola". Food and Beverage Reporter. PS Publishing. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  24. ^ "Species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds". Retrieved 2014-10-30. 
  25. ^ "Weavers breeding in baobabs". Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Retrieved 2014-10-30. 

Further reading[edit]

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