african trees, Bombacaceae, Adansonia digitata, Baobab, kremetart, Movana, Shimuwu, Muvhuyu

Family: Bombacaceae

Scientific Name: Adansonia digitata

Common names: Baobab, Kremetart, Movana (Botswana), Shimuwu, Muvhuyu


Description: The average stem diameter of a large Baobab is about 5 m, but specimens with a diameter of up to 9 m are not uncommon. The bark is faintly glossy and pinkish grey in colour. It is usually smooth but forms bulges and lumps which resemble congealed wax. The leaves are large finger-like and the fruits are large ovoid pods. The white flowers are large (up to 12 cm in diameter) and seen from October to November.

Medical uses: The leaves contain tannin and mucilage, and can be used for the following; to treat fevers, diarrhoea and haemoptysis. The bark and leaves may have anti-inflammatory and diaphoretic properties and was used to treat urinary disorders and fevers.

The powdered seeds was used to cure hiccups in children.

Superstitions: Much superstition surrounds this tree, and it is believed by the San people, that the evil spirits which lives in the tree's white flowers, will cause a lion to eat anyone who plucks them.

Nutritive uses: The fruit pulp can be used as a yeast. The roasted and grounded seed can be used as coffee. Fresh leaves can be eaten as salad. Shoots of germinating seed can be eaten and taste like spinach.

Other uses: Bark yields an excellent fibre, and used in floor mats and other weaving.

The seed contain a alkaloid, adenosine, which can be used as a antidote against Strophanthin a cardiac glycoside used for arrow poison, and which are extracted from the Strophanthus kombe plant.

Interesting Facts: This tree is like a supermarket nearly every single part has a usefulness. At the Ngoma border between Namibia and Botswana, there is an huge tree that is hollow, and was used as an holding cell by the Botswana border police in the '80's. The largest known baobab-tree in Namibia, is found in the Mahangu Core  area, in the Namibian Okavango Delta Panhandle, and estimated to be between 300 and 800 years old.

Credits: Christian Fourie, Ranger and safari specialist for Southern Africa.