These giant trees fascinate by their characteristics. Its huge trunk and its little leafy branches tickling the sky make it look like a tree planted upside down. It is to wonder if nature had not made a huge blunder. A Kenyan legend tells that the baobab complained so much of its appearance and size that God got angry, lifted him up and replanted his roots in the air.
Baobabs, endemic to Madagascar?
Of the 8 Baobab species in the world, 6 are endemic to Madagascar, 1 to Africa and 1 to Australia. Only the latter is not endangered.
you may have seen sharing a photo of Malagasy baobabs planted in Dubai that made the buzz on the web. Rest assured, the post incriminating Dubai was a fake. Or rather a mistake of journalism. it is that of Australia that was planted in Dubai and not the Malagasy species.
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The giant tree has also been popularized by the Little Prince of Saint-Exupery, these terrible seeds that small, resemble reeds, but growing, become giants who quickly invade the small planet of the prince. The baobab symbolizes in this book inner conflicts of the heart, problems, anticipation, etc.
The name baobab comes from the Arabic word "bu hibab" which means fruit with many seeds. In addition to its massive size that can be more than 12 m in diameter and 30 m in height depending on the species, they are also the ancestors of the world whose age limit can reach 2,000 years. His scientific name, Adansonia, is a tribute to Michel Adanson, naturalist and French explorer, the first to have described the African species.
With its shape, the soft and spongy baobab wood is up to 80% water, hence its nickname tree-bottle. Depending on its weight, it may contain a body of water heavier than an Airbus A-380: 300 to 500 tons. Just like us, its weight also undergoes the yo-yo effect depending on the seasons. That's why the tree dusts and rots quickly when cut.
Because of its very slow growth, Baobab germinates only after 2 years, and reaches 50 cm in height only after 7 years. He can live beyond 1500 years. It is therefore very massive and can be more than 12 m in diameter and reach 30 m in height depending on the species.
Of the 6 Baobab species endemic to Madagascar you have:
- Adansonia grandidieri: Present near Morombe and Morondava in western Madagascar. It can reach more than 25m high, having a cylindrical trunk 9 to 10 m in circumference
- Adansonia madagascariensis: Present in the dry to semi-dry forests of Majunga province and also in the north. It has a variable size from 5m to 20m. Its trunk evolves from the large bottle to the cylinder.
- Adansonia perrieri: It is a very rare tree, threatened with extinction. It vegetates in the region of Antsiranana (Diego Suarez), in the north of the island. It can measure more than 30m.
- Adansonia rubrostipa: It is the smallest of the baobabs of Madagascar, with its 4 to 5m height. The trunk has a particular shape of bottle, with a tightening visible below the branches.
- Adansonia suarezensis: It is a tree in great danger. Its vegetation zone is restricted to northern Madagascar near Antsiranana.
- Adansonia za: This is the most common baobab on the island. It grows in the south, west and northwest.
The baobab tree of life in Madagascar
Despite the uselessness of their wood, baobabs serve as homes for many species of orchids, lemurs, birds and reptiles that can spend their entire lives without ever seeing the outside world.
In addition, Malagasy use all its parts in their daily lives. Its fiber is for example used to make ropes, roofs or walls of home or even for the manufacture of fabric. Its sap, bark and leaves are prized for their medicinal properties: against inflammation, skin diseases, colic, fever or as a disinfectant. Its pulp, called "monkey bread", serves as a drink for refreshing, excellent associated with mint, lemon, milk, etc.
Rich in vitamin C (six times more than orange) and calcium (twice as much as cow's milk), baobab is also an abundant source of antioxidants, four times higher than that of a kiwifruit or Apple. Its leaves are an excellent source of vitamin A, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum and phosphorus, and the seeds are rich in protein. Which has earned it superfood status in recent years.
The beauty page with the baobab
Given its nutritional richness, the baobab has become THE flagship beauty product. Malagasy women on the west side of the island use her bark to make a beauty mask to protect themselves from the sun and remove impurities from the skin. A similar use to "Masonjoany" or Malagasy sandalwood.
In the form of powder or oil, the baobab is presented as a miracle for its cosmetic virtues. It is a natural product to fight against the aging of the skin. It also helps accelerate healing to get rid of those nasty acne pimples and blackheads, or to minimize the after-effects of an injury. The infusions of leaves or baobab bark can help eliminate bad cholesterol, allowing you to lose weight. Some even argue that it would benefit the 3rd foot. Finally, given the turn it takes, we will not spread on it and enumerate everything. Refer to this Google dear for the benefits and other DIY of using baobab.
You can buy it from authorized dealers in Madagascar. His many virtues have contributed to his worldwide fame, especially among Americans right now. But on a part of the big island, more than an oil to spread the skin, the baobab becomes vital.
Baobabs and Mahafaly, a singular practice
In Madagascar, on the Mahafaly plateau, the baobab tree of life takes on a larger dimension. Very dry and arid region, the tree has literally become a cistern. A natural container that allows the local population to store water to survive. A particular practice inherited from the village ancestors in adaptation to the drought and famine that hit the region, around 1920. The holes in the baobabs stored water after the few storms, but did not rot. This inspired them to turn it into a cistern.
Several rules are in order to have a Baobab tanker. When the farmer finds an adult baobab tree, the area is cleared and cleaned to mark the area and report that the tree is taken. Then, a red or black rooster is sacrificed to ask the permission and the blessing to the Malagasy ancestors, because the baobab is sacred and shelters spirits.
The tree is dug only in the dry season, because with moisture, it will not heal and rot. In addition, not everyone is allowed to do the job. Indeed, young men whose father is still alive can not dig the baobab, otherwise the father will die. Depending on the time spent working, the hole will be large enough when an adult can stand up.
Once the tank is full, the window is closed by branches to prevent animals from entering and contaminating the water. The baobab tank is maintained and refreshed every 5 years for future generations to use.
For more information, do not hesitate to inform you about the villagers of the plateau of Mahafaly, they will teach you a little more. Beyond this misplaced humor, if for us the water flows by a magic pipe, it is thanks to the baobab-tank, whose largest can contain about 9 cubic meters of water, that these families can survive 3 or 4 months longer.
Peoples very poor, but culturally very rich, the Mahafaly have adapted to their hostile but exceptional environment. They are now part of the indicative list of UNSECO World Heritages. If water is life, it is as much thanks to the baobab in their eyes.
When baobabs challenge time
Because of their longevity, the majority of baobabs have survived colonization, two world wars, political crises, mullet, teaktonik, and may survive the Kardashians. Indeed, their cellular structure makes these giants a mutant plant compared to its peers.
The cambium, elastic tissues that are located below the bark, serves as second skin and ensures the growth and adaptation of ordinary trees. In baobabs, cambium is scattered all over the wood. This singularity gives him an incredible ability of self-regeneration allowing him to adapt, to heal himself and to explain his longevity. Basically, a Wolverine or Deadpool of the plant kingdom whose worst enemy would be in Madagascar: rice.
The cultivation on burning and deforestation for the planting of the rice fields led to the disappearance of certain animal species, necessary for the reproduction of the baobabs. This has had the tragic consequence that young baobabs have not existed in some parts of the island for more than 400 years. Thus, today threatened like most of the Malagasy nature, the baobabs of Madagascar are not only endemic, but may also be the last of their kind.
Baobabs, from North to South in Madagascar
It is an understatement to say that the baobab is a particular tree. Madagascar offers you the unique opportunity to see these giants of nature. We will take you on a tour of the North to the South of the island to discover them.
On the northern part of the island are the most endangered baobab species: the Suarez baobab (Andansonia suarenzis) and the Perrier baobab (Andansonia perrieri). It is found on the Montagne des Français, in the National Park of Ankarana or excursion to the outskirts of Diego.
A little further south, still to the west where Majunga is located, we see the African species Andansonia Digidata, planted around 1889 by the Antalaotse, Arabs from the Persian Gulf. The tree today reaches a circumference of 21.7 m.
Renamed "Bouye Be", it sits in the middle of the city, serves as a roundabout and is a national heritage, symbol of the city. In the same area, on the Anjajavy side, you can see the smallest of the baobabs, which rarely measure more than 5 meters, the Andansonia rubrotispa.
The Alley of Baobabs 20 km from the city of Morondava is the most photographed of Madagascar. Particularly photogenic at sunset or at dawn, it is a group of Adansonia Grandidier which borders the road to join Tsingy de Bemaraha. Not far from there is the baobab lovers, two trunks that intertwine like lovers. The locals come there to make wishes: to have a child, to ask marital happiness or to ward off bad luck.
From Morondava, the possibilities to see the baobabs are numerous on the axis that connects it to Tulear. There is among others the national park Kirindy Mitea in Belo sur Mer, a first stop to observe the baobabs.
Ambiky Forest, in Morombe, is home to the largest baobab on the island: the "Tsitakakoike" with 27.3 meters in circumference. Struck by lightning in early 2019, the tree is currently dying, although on part of its trunk, leaves are still growing.
However, a recent exploration of the area revealed in March 2019 "Tsitakakantsa". An individual of 28.8 m in circumference which thus holds to date the palm of the largest baobab of Madagascar.
There is also the baobab "Lavatanana" or "with long arms", a unique baobab tree that, unlike its peers, raises its branches in the direction of the earth instead of pointing them to the sky.
Leaving Morombe, you will skirt the Mangoky River where the baobabs are dotted here and there, between land and sea. A varied landscape, authentic and breathtaking, twirling between lagoons and lakes, thorny forests, fishing villages, and especially , The baobabs.
Note: This axis Morondava - Tuléar still requires a budget and the assistance of a professional would not be too much. The arduous track can only be done in 4 * 4 and rental is more expensive. As you are in the bush, you may be charged for the return of the car too.
On some stages of the trip, do not expect luxury comfort. Hotels in inland villages are sometimes very simple, but friendly. The possibility of making this trip by dhow or aboard a boat exists for the more adventurous. This allows to discover isolated regions, a unique nature, unknown. However, the cost may be quite high, but one option would be to consider this adventure as a group.
To finish this trip on the theme of baobab, you can leave Tuléar for Anakao, one of the most beautiful beaches of Madagascar where you can relax. From here you can visit Tsimanampetsotsa National Park, which is precisely part of the Mahafaly Plateau. The park is home to the oldest known baobab of the island: the baobab "Grandmother", 1600 years old.
To situate this, in the 5th century in the rest of the world, it is the fall of the Roman Empire, the creation of the Armenian alphabet, the life of St. Patrick, Catholic figure at the origin of the symbol of clover and the Irish party on March 17th. Meanwhile, the grandma baobab is born in the depths of southern Madagascar. It will be necessary to wait until 1 100 years later before a Portuguese discovers Madagascar in Diego and 250 years more before a French is the first to describe the baobabs.
The Big Island has endemic flora unique in the world. It includes 490 indigenous genera of trees and shrubs, 161 of which are endemic to Madagascar and the islands of the Comoros Archipelago. Among these species, we find the great Baobabs.
"A very long time ago, the baobab was near the water and raised its top to the sky. When no wind blows, the surface of the pond is smooth as a mirror. He could see other trees with flowering hair, tender bark and leaves. All sparkled with color, and the baobab saw all this in the mirror and he was unhappy. His leaves were tiny, his flowers imperceptible. He was fat and his bark looked like the wrinkled skin of an old elephant. The tree invoked God and complained to him. God had created the tree and was satisfied with his work that was not like the others. He loved diversity. Only he could not bear the criticism. He asked the tree if he thought the hippopotamus was nice or the cry of the hyena. Then God withdrew into the clouds. He wanted us to let him think in peace. The creation of men who would please him already caused him much concern ... The baobab never ceased, neither to look in the mirror, nor to raise towards him his complaints. So God went down, grabbed the baobab, lifted it up and put it back into the earth, upside down. Thus the tree could no longer see and complain. Everything was back in order. "