Trees

Baobab (Adansonia digitata)

We are going to learn more about one of the most majestic trees that lives in the African savannah: the Baobab. It is also one of the most popular and known by collectors and fans of desert plants such as cacti and succulents. Its scientific name is Adansonia digitata, and its main characteristic is, of course, its size.

With a thick, bottle-shaped trunk and beautiful green leaves, it thus becomes an ideal option for those who have a garden in a warm climate.

Origin and characteristics of the baobab

Image – Flickr/ Bernard DUPONT

The baobab is endemic to the south of the Sahara, but because it can live from sea level to about 1200m in altitude, it can be found all over the continent. Even so, if you ever have the opportunity to go there, we recommend you visit the Kruger National Park, in southern Africa, which is also home to one of the most important animal reserves in the country, with an area of ​​almost 19 thousand kilometers.

A peculiarity that this tree has, as well as many others that have to live in similar climatic conditions, is that in summer it loses its leaves, but when the rainy season begins it sprouts again. It is a measure they have taken to avoid the massive loss of water that would occur in the hottest and driest season of the year, endangering the life of the tree.

During the time that it rains and the temperatures are a little more pleasant, this species will have leaves composed of pinnae or wide and long leaflets, of green color.

It can grow to a height of more than twenty meters, and its trunk can be more than 40 meters thick. It’s impressive, don’t you think? Much more than most trees.

Another curious fact is that specimens have been found that have lived up to 4000 years.

When do baobabs bloom?

The flowers are white and shaped like a hand, something that gives it the surname digitata, which means “with fingers.” They measure 12 centimeters in diameter, and sprout for the first time when the tree is about 20 years old, with the sun setting. Their pollinators are bats, so the smell they give off is not pleasant. These sprout only in the adult specimens.

If we talk about the fruit, it is known as monkey bread or Senegal pumpkin, it has a rounded shape and is quite large, being about 15 centimeters in diameter and high.

What are the care to be given?

Image – Wikimedia/ Bernard DUPONT

In cultivation it is not a very demanding species. It should be treated as if it were a cactus, that is to say, light and porous substrate, weekly or fortnightly irrigations (depending on rainfall and heat in the area), and fertilized in spring and summer following the recommendations of the manufacturer of said fertilizer.

Likewise, it is important that it is exposed to the sun king, since otherwise it will not be able to grow in conditions. For this reason, it is not a suitable plant to have indoors.

Related article:How to grow baobab?

What climate do baobabs need?

The Adansonia digitata lives in areas where the climate is tropical, that is, where temperatures remain above 0 degrees Celsius, always. In addition, between 300 and 500 mm of precipitation are recorded each year. These rains are interrupted by a dry season that can last a few months, so the tree is leafless during that time.

It is important to say that, when it is grown in an area where the climate is temperate, with the four most different seasons, it will remain a deciduous species, but instead of losing its foliage in summer, it will do so in autumn-winter as a result of the cold.. This behavior is seen in other plants of tropical and subtropical origin, such as the flamboyant ( Delonix regia ) grown in temperate climates, and it is not something you should be concerned about.

Unfortunately, it does not resist frost. Perhaps adult specimens with many years of acclimatization could endure a very, very mild frost of a very short duration, but it is difficult. In warm gardens with well-defined seasons (rainy and dry), it can look fabulous.

How to plant baobab?

To get a specimen of Adansonia digitata from seed, it is advisable to follow these steps:

  1. The first is to heat water, until it burns but without boiling (it must be around 40ºC more or less).
  2. Then fill a thermos with that water, and add the seeds. Keep them there 24 hours.
  3. After that time, plant them in individual pots with vermiculite, burying them 1 centimeter or something less. More than anything else, they should be kept out of the open.
  4. Afterwards, the seedlings are watered and placed near a heat source.

If the temperature remains above 20-30ºC, and if the seeds are fresh, they will germinate after 10-20 days.

Related article:How to reproduce baobab

How to plant a baobab?

Yard

If you want to plant a baobab in your garden, you have to follow this step by step:

  1. First, you have to make a hole of about 50 x 50 centimeters with a hoe for example, in an area exposed to the sun.
  2. Next, introduce a layer of thick clay stone about 5-7 centimeters high.
  3. Lastly, plant your tree by filling the hole with pomx, quartz sand or similar, making sure that it is not too low in relation to the ground level.

Flower pot

In the event that you want to plant it in a pot, or if you already have it and have seen that it needs a larger one, you have to do the following:

  1. First, you have to choose a pot that has holes in the base. It can be made of plastic or clay, although we recommend the latter as this way it will be able to root better.
  2. Then, you have to fill it with pumice or similar, up to about half.
  3. Then, remove the tree from its old pot, and put it in the new one. Make sure it is neither too high nor too low.
  4. Finally, when it is at the right height, you have to finish filling with pumice, and water.

What uses does baobab have?

Finally, it is interesting to know the uses that are given to this tree:

  • The most important is the nutritional one: with the fibers of the fruit pasta and drinks are made; in addition, the leaves are used to make soups. And not only that, but a table oil is extracted from the black seeds.
  • Baobab is also medicinal. It has many properties: it is astringent, febrifugal, sudorific and stimulates the appetite.
  • Of course, it is also ornamental, although its cultivation in gardens is restricted only to those places where the climate is appropriate for it. Usually it is planted as an isolated specimen.

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