Adansonia digitata

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Adansonia digitata
Baobab and elephant, Tanzania.jpg
Baobab tree in Tanzania
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Adansonia
Species: A. digitata
Binomial name
Adansonia digitata

Adansonia digitata (baobab) is the most widespread of the Adansonia species on the African continent, found in the hot, dry savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. It also grows, having spread secondary to cultivation, in populated areas[clarification needed]. English common names for the baobab include dead-rat tree (from the appearance of the fruits), monkey-bread tree (the soft, dry fruit is edible), upside-down tree (the sparse branches resemble roots) and cream of tartar tree (cream of tartar). This species is the baobab that Michel Adanson examined in Senegal and described to the French Academy of Sciences; Linnaeus named the genus Adansonia in his honour.


The northern limit of its distribution in Africa is associated with rainfall patterns; only on the Atlantic coast and in the Sudan does its occurrence venture naturally into the Sahel. On the Atlantic coast, this may be due to spreading after cultivation. Its occurrence is very limited in Central Africa, and it is found only in the very north of Southern Africa. In Eastern Africa, the trees grow also in shrublands and on the coast. In Angola and Namibia, the baobabs grow in woodlands, and in coastal regions, in addition to savannahs. It is also found in Dhofar region of Oman and Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, Western Asia. This tree is also found in India, particularly in the dry regions of the country.[1]


Each leaf comprises five leaflets.
Baobab flower

The trees usually grow as solitary individuals, and are large and distinctive trees on the savannah, in the scrub, and near settled areas, with some large individuals living to well over a thousand years of age.[2] The tree bears very large, heavy, white flowers. The showy flowers are pendulous with a very large number of stamens. They carry a carrion scent and researchers have shown that they appear to be primarily pollinated by fruit bats of the subfamily Pteropodinae. The fruits are filled with pulp that dries, hardens, and falls to pieces which look like chunks of powdery, dry bread.[3]

The specific epithet digitata refers to the fingers of a hand, which the five leaflets (typically) in each cluster bring to mind.

With full leaves in Bagamoyo, Tanzania

Food uses and nutrition[edit]

The fruit can be up to 25 centimetres (10 in) long and is used to make a drink.

The baobab is a traditional food plant in Africa, but is little-known elsewhere. The vegetable has been suggested to have the potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development, and support sustainable land care.[4]

The African baobab's fruit is 15 to 20 centimetres or 6 to 8 inches long. It contains 50% more calcium than spinach, is high in antioxidants, and has three times the vitamin C of an orange.[5] It is sometimes called a superfruit.[5] The dry pulp is either eaten fresh or dissolved in milk or water to make a refreshing drink. The leaves can be eaten as relish. Young fresh leaves are cooked in a sauce, and sometimes are dried and powdered. The powder is called lalo in Mali and sold in many village markets in Western Africa. Oil extracted by pounding the seeds can be used for cooking but this is not widespread.[6] In Sudan — where the tree is called tebeldi — people make tabaldi juice by soaking and dissolving the dry pulp of the fruit, locally known as gunguleiz.[7][8]

In 2008, the European Union approved the use and consumption of baobab fruit as an ingredient in smoothies and cereal bars.[9]

Adansonia digitata - baobabs

The United States Food and Drug Administration granted generally recognized as safe status to baobab dried fruit pulp as a food ingredient in 2009.[10]

Baobab leaves are sometimes used as forage for ruminants in dry season. The oilmeal, which is a byproduct of oil extraction, can also be used as animal feed.[11]

Prominent specimens and protection[edit]

The baobab is a protected tree in South Africa.[12] Several individual baobab trees are notable for their age, their size, or their specific history:


  1. ^ "Adansonia digitata:Plant Database of India". Retrieved 2011-03-21. [dead link]
  2. ^ Varmah, J. C.; Vaid, K. M. (1978). "Baobab - the historic African tree at Allahbad". Indian Forester 104 (7): 461–464. 
  3. ^ National Research Council (January 25, 2008). "Baobab". Lost Crops of Africa: Volume III: Fruits. Lost Crops of Africa 3. National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-10596-5. Retrieved July 15, 2008. 
  4. ^ National Research Council (October 27, 2006). "Baobab". Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables. Lost Crops of Africa 2. National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-10333-6. Retrieved July 15, 2008. 
  5. ^ a b Claire Soares 2008. The tree of life (and its super fruit), The Independent, Thursday, 17 July 2008
  6. ^ Sidibe, M.; Williams, J. T. (2002). Baobab - Adansonia digitata. Southampton, UK: International Centre for Underutilised Crops. ISBN 0854327762. 
  7. ^ "Baobab (Adansonia digitata L.): a Review on a Multipurpose Tree with Promising Future in the Sudan". Gartenbauwissenschaft. April 2002. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Baobab dried fruit pulp". Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-06-03. 
  10. ^ Laura M. Tarantino (July 25, 2009). "Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice No. GRN 000273". FDA. 
  11. ^ Heuzé, V.; Tran, G.; Bastianelli, D.; Archimède, H. (January 25, 2013). "African baobab (Adansonia digitata)". A programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. Retrieved February 6, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Protected Trees". Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Republic of South Africa. 3 May 2013. 

External links[edit]