Thursday, December 31, 2009

Baobab Symbol of The African Savanna

The tree sheds its leaves during the dry season, which can last most of the year depending on the climate zone. Leaves are digitate, normally having 5 leaflets when mature. The leaflets have entire margins and are elliptic to obovate-elliptic, with acuminate apex and a decurrent base.

Mature leaf size may reach a diameter of 20 cm. The flowers bloom during the wet season and the dry season as well. They are very large and suspended on long peduncles. The fruit is bottle or cucumber shaped and develops 5-6 months after florescence. It has a woody outer shell, 7.5-54 cm long x 7.5-20 cm wide, covered by velvety yellowish, sometimes greenish hairs.

The internal fruit pulp is split into mealy agglomerates that enclose several reniform seeds (approximately 10 mm long) (Sidibe and Williams, 2002). Because of its great size and diffusion, the Baobab is an extremely the impressive tree. It symbolizes the African savanna better than any other plant. Its spongy wood does not burn; therefore the plant is protected from fire. Hollowed out baobab trunks in the vicinity of villages are used for water storage.

In areas where the baobab tree grows, there are traditions that prohibit communities from cutting down the baobab tree and any other fruit bearing trees. Where there has been extensive deforestation, this has resulted in a situation whereby the baobab and other fruit trees are the only trees to remain standing (Kurebgaseka, 2005). The baobab tree is also a good fodder tree especially for game. Cattle eat the leaves and flowers that would otherwise fall to the ground. Baobab roots can be tapped where water is a problem.

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