Big Tree at Victoria Falls
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The Big Tree - is a large baobab of the species Adansonia digitata in Zimbabwe, close to the Victoria Falls. It has sometimes been called Livingstone's tree erroneously. Unusually for a baobab it has both an impressive girth and is very tall. It measures 22.40 metres in girth (2004) and is 24 metres tall (1985).
The explorer and missionary David Livingstone who discovered the Victoria Falls for the British Empire (naming the Falls for his queen) carved his name in 1855 into a Boabab tree on an island (Garden Island) above the precipice of the well known waterfalls that is now an international tourist attraction.
Big Tree is in fact roughly 2 km from the river, the falls and the island where Livingstone arrived in a 'makoro' dugout canoe made landfall and wrote his records. Apart from being the best known this impressive tree is possibly the oldest and biggest baobab in Zimbabwe. Some as impressive, or more impressive trees were sadly lost under the flooding further downstream that occurred once Kariba Dam wall was finished in 1956. Unlike the animals rescued and saved by Operation Noah during the flooding the trees had to stay where they were, many were bulldozed so they would not become underwater hazards.
Big Tree may be about 2000 yrs old using estimates from its girth and growth ring data collected from other trees under Rhodesian rule. However it is deeply incised and there is speculation that it is three tree trunks ( or trees) and it may be considerably younger.
Big Tree is protected by Museums and National Monuments of Zimbabwe under whose jurisdiction it falls (not National Park of Zimbabwe). Over previous years name-carvers have left their mark on the tree but the tree is now protected from these vandals by a fence.
There are a number of other huge baobabs in Zimbabwe that may be larger (but are not as well known) including;
- Three Giants in the Save Conservancy (two of which are called twins due to their close proximity to each other)
- One huge tree at Nkayi
- One in Gona-Re-Zhou National Park
Kapok trees are the baobab equivalent trees of the 'New World' with swollen trunks and likewise also members of the family Malvaceae and the same order. Kapoks are found in Peru and Brazil, South America. As introduced exotic trees they flourish in Zimbabwe, naturalise and have done very well, some achieving amazing heights probably taller than in their native homelands. There is one well known notable tree in Borrowdale Shopping Centre, Harare and several (including a group of four) in the City Parks Department in Mutare.
- Mullins L J, 2004, Historic Trees of Zimbabwe, CBC Publishing