1. Family: Malvaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Adansonia L.
      1. Adansonia digitata L.

        Widespread and common, baobab is a defining icon of African bushland and can grow to an old age. Radiocarbon dating of a baobab in Namibia indicated an age of about 1,275 years, making this the oldest known tree within the angiosperms (flowering plants). All parts of the tree are used by local people, to whom baobab has great social and economic importance.

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Widespread and common, baobab is a defining icon of African bushland and can grow to an old age. Radiocarbon dating of a baobab in Namibia indicated an age of about 1,275 years, making this the oldest known tree within the angiosperms (flowering plants). All parts of the tree are used by local people, to whom baobab has great social and economic importance.

    Common trade routes were often based on the baobab trees growing along the way, and each tree even had its own name. The large, white flowers are pollinated by bats and bushbabies. Elephants often gouge the trunks of baobabs to get at the water inside and can damage mature trees.

    It has recently been proposed that the African baobab consists of two species - one very widely distributed lowland species with four sets of chromosomes (Adansonia digitata), and a second, more montane species with just two sets of chromosomes (A. kilima). Some floral differences can be observed, but the hypothesis needs to be tested with wider geographic coverage.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Adansonia digitata is widespread in the drier parts of tropical and southern Africa, from Mauritania in the northwest to Sudan in the northeast, and south to South Africa. It is also found in the Arabian Peninsula.

    Description

    Overview: A massive, deciduous tree with a trunk that can grow to an immense girth. The bark is smooth.

    Leaves: Borne at the ends of branches, leaves are usually divided into 5‒7 leaflets attached to a central point.

    Flowers: Large (up to 20 cm in diameter), white and pendent on long stalks. Each flower has five free petals and many stamens (male parts).

    Fruit: More or less cylindrical and up to 35 cm long and 13 cm wide. Each fruit is filled with mealy pulp containing many small, dark brown seeds, each about 1 cm long and wide. The seeds have a reddish-black seed coat.

    Uses

    An important indigenous fruit tree, the fruit pulp (rich in vitamin C) is eaten on its own or mixed in porridge and is also used for making soft drinks. Seeds are used as a thickener for soups, and leaves are eaten as a vegetable or in soups.

    Fibres from the inner bark are used to make rope and string for basketry, as well as for making beehives. Trunks that have been hollowed by lightning or by humans have been employed imaginatively as a pub, toilet, prison and bus stop. In western Sudan, the trunks were used as water containers. The roots produce a dye.

    Roots, bark, leaves, fruits and seeds are used medicinally for an enormous range of ailments, among the more common of which are iron deficiency, digestive system disorders, infections and skin disorders. Baobab is used in both human and veterinary treatments.

    Baobab also has some perceived magical uses. For example, it is said that a decoction of the seeds will protect you against crocodiles and that flowers are inhabited by spirits.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Seven collections of Adansonia digitata are held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    See Kew's Seed Information Database for further information on Adansonia digitata seeds

    Cultivation

    Baobab seeds germinate readily, but seedlings can take a long time to become established, and it may take 16‒23 years until a tree produces its first flowers.

    This species at Kew

    Alcohol-preserved specimens of Adansonia digitata are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. 

    Specimens of baobab are held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    Distribution
    Namibia, South Africa
    Ecology
    Dry bushland, woodland, wooded grassland; often left standing in cultivated areas.
    Conservation
    Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria; widespread and locally common.
    Hazards

    None known.

    [KSP]
    Use
    Foodstuff, medicine, rope-making, basketry.

    Images

    Distribution

    Native to:

    Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina, Cameroon, Caprivi Strip, Central African Repu, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Oman, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

    Introduced into:

    Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Madagascar, Mozambique Channel I

    Common Names

    English
    Baobab, Upside-down tree

    Adansonia digitata L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Jun 1, 1993 s.coll. [457], Nigeria K000452282
    Jan 1, 1990 Ngoni, J.F. [505], Botswana K000489244
    Sep 25, 1988 Chevalier, A.J.B. [20453], Guinea K000452266
    Sep 25, 1988 Thomas, A.S. [2779], Sierra Leone K000452268
    Sep 25, 1988 Thomas, A.S. [2626], Sierra Leone K000452269
    Sep 25, 1988 Newton, L.E. [727], Ghana K000452271
    Sep 25, 1988 Newton, L.E. [727], Ghana K000452272
    Sep 25, 1988 Chipp [513], Ghana K000452273
    Sep 25, 1988 Farmar, l. [515], Ghana K000452274
    Sep 25, 1988 Hakki, M. [124], Togo K000452277
    Sep 25, 1988 Hakki, M. [727], Togo K000452278
    Sep 25, 1988 s.coll. [34], Nigeria K000452279
    Sep 25, 1988 [Rebbeb] [8702], Botswana K000489243
    Sep 25, 1988 Drummond, R.B. [5244], Botswana K000489245
    Sep 25, 1988 Perrier de la Bâthie, H. [s.n.], Madagascar K000382591
    Jan 1, 1988 Baron, R. [35], Madagascar K000382593
    Jul 12, 1985 Lowe, J. [4701], Nigeria K000452283
    Wild, H. [15721], Zimbabwe 16589.000
    Tanner, R.E.S. [1104], Tanzania 22104.000
    Freeston, R.C. [35], Nigeria 34496.000
    Giles, E. [s.n.], Cape Verde K000452261
    Lawesson, J.E. [5371], Senegal K000452262
    s.coll. [s.n.], Senegal K000452263
    Chevalier, A.J.B. [1104], Mali K000452264
    Kesby, J.D. [19], Senegal K000452265
    Chevalier, A.J.B. [21691], Guinea K000452267
    Deighton, F.C. [2759], Sierra Leone K000452270
    Morton, J.K. [2083], Ghana K000452275
    Howes [4], Ghana K000452276
    Baikie [186], Nigeria K000452280
    Ujor, E. [21948], Nigeria K000452281
    Chapman, J.D. [3213], Nigeria K000452284
    Smith, P.A. [1354], Botswana K000489246
    Allen, A. [220], Botswana K000489247
    Decary, R. [15346], Madagascar K000382592
    Baum, D. [329], Madagascar K000382594
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 1838] K001114365
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 1838] K001114366
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 1838], India K001114367
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 1838] K001114368

    First published in Syst. Nat. ed. 10 2: 1144, 1382 (1759)

    Accepted by

    • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Velayos, M., Barberá, P., Cabezas, F.J., de la Estrella, M., Fero, M. & Aedo, C. (2014). Checklist of the vascular plants of Annobón (Equatorial Guinea) Phytotaxa 171: 1-78.
    • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
    • Thiombiano, A., Schmidt, M., Dressler, S., Ouédraogo, A., Hahn, K. & Zizka, G. (2012). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Burkina Faso Boissiera 65: 1-391.
    • Meena, S.L. (2012). A checklist of the vascular plants of Banaskantha district, Gujarat, India Nelumbo 54: 39-91.
    • Mosti, S., Raffaelli, M. & Tardelli, M. (2012). Contributions to the flora of central-southern Dhofar (Sultanate of Oman) Webbia; Raccolta de Scritti Botanici 67: 65-91.
    • Figueiredo, E., Paiva, J., Stévart, T., Oliveira, F. & Smith, G.F. (2011). Annotated catalogue of the flowering plants of São Tomé and Príncipe Bothalia, A Journal of Botanical Research 41: 41-82.
    • Onana, J.M. (2011). The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments: 1-195. National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé.
    • Mannheimer, C.A. & Curtis, B.A. (eds.) (2009). Le Roux and Müller's field guide to the trees and shrubs of Namibia, rev. ed.: 1-525. Macmillan Education Namibia, Windhoek.
    • Figueiredo, E. & Smith, G.F. (2008). Plants of Angola Strelitzia 22: 1-279. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
    • Catarino, L., Martins, E.S., Diniz, M.A. & Pinto-Basto, M.F. (2006). Check-list da flora vascular do parque natural das Lagos de Cufada (Guiné-Bissau) Garcia de Orta, Série de Botânica 17: 97-141.
    • Sita, P. & Moutsambote, J.-M. (2005). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Congo, ed. sept. 2005: 1-158. ORSTOM, Centre de Brazzaville.
    • Germishuizen, G. & Meyer, N.L. (eds.) (2003). Plants of Southern Africa an annotated checklist Strelitzia 14: 1-1231. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
    • Edwards, S., Tadesse, M. & Hedberg, I. (eds.) (1995). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 2(2): 1-456. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps.
    • Govaerts, R. (1995). World Checklist of Seed Plants 1(1, 2): 1-483, 529. MIM, Deurne.
    • Barry, J. P. & Celles, J.S. (1991). Flore de Mauritanie 1: 1-359. Centre Regional de Documentation Pedagogique, Nice.
    • Jones, M. (1991). A checklist of Gambian plants: 1-33. Michael Jones, The Gambia College.
    • Lebrun, J.p., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso: 1-341. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali: 1-465. Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux.
    • Boulvert, Y. (1977). Catalogue de la Flore de Centrafrique 3: 1-89. ORSTROM, Bangui.
    • Peyre de Fabregues, B. & Lebrun, J.-P. (1976). Catalogue des Plantes Vascularies du Niger: 1-433. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional: 1-289. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Exell, A.W. & Wild, H. (eds.) (1961). Flora Zambesiaca 1(2): 337-581. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Hutchinson, J., Dalziel, J.M. & Keay, R.W.J. (1954-1958). Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 1: 1-828.
    • Robyns, W. & al. (eds.) (1948-1963). Flore du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi 1-10.

    Literature

    Kew Species Profiles
    • Pettigrew, J. D., Bell, K. L., Bhagwandin, A., Grinan, E., Jillani, N., Meyer, J., Wabuyele, E. & Vickers, C. E. (2012). Morphology, ploidy and molecular phylogenetics reveal a new diploid species from Africa in the baobab genus Adansonia (Malvaceae: Bombacoideae). Taxon 61: 1240-1250.
    • Wickens, G. E. & Lowe, P. (2008). The Baobabs: Pachycauls of Africa, Madagascar and Australia. Berlin, Germany; New York, NY: Springer.
    • Patrut, A., von Reden, K. F., Lowy, D. A., Alberts, A. H., Pohlman, J. W., Wittmann, R., Gerlach, D., Li, Xu & Mitchell, C. S. (2007). Radiocarbon dating of a very large African baobab. Tree Physiology 27: 1569–1574.
    • Sacande, M., Ronne, C., Sanon, M. D. & Joker, D. (2006). Adansonia digitata L.: Seed Leaflet 109 (pdf). Forest & Landscape Denmark, Denmark.
    • Coates Palgrave, K. (2002). Trees of Southern Africa, 3rd Edition. Struik, Cape Town, Johannesburg.
    • Beentje, H. J. (1994). Kenya Trees, Shrubs and Lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.
    • Beentje, H. J. (1989). Bombacaceae. In: Flora of Tropical East Africa, ed. R. M. Polhill. Balkema, Rotterdam.
    Kew Backbone Distributions
    • Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015). The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan: 1-400. Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
    • Meena, S.L. (2012). A checklist of the vascular plants of Banaskantha district, Gujarat, India Nelumbo 54: 39-91.
    • Mosti, S., Raffaelli, M. & Tardelli, M. (2012). Contributions to the flora of central-southern Dhofar (Sultanate of Oman) Webbia; Raccolta de Scritti Botanici 67: 65-91.
    • Figueiredo, E., Paiva, J., Stévart, T., Oliveira, F. & Smith, G.F. (2011). Annotated catalogue of the flowering plants of São Tomé and Príncipe Bothalia, A Journal of Botanical Research 41: 41-82.
    • Onana, J.M. (2011). The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments: 1-195. National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé.
    • Catarino, L., Martins, E.S., Diniz, M.A. & Pinto-Basto, M.F. (2006). Check-list da flora vascular do parque natural das Lagos de Cufada (Guiné-Bissau) Garcia de Orta, Série de Botânica 17: 97-141.
    • Sita, P. & Moutsambote, J.-M. (2005). Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Congo, ed. sept. 2005: 1-158. ORSTOM, Centre de Brazzaville.
    • Edwards, S., Tadesse, M. & Hedberg, I. (eds.) (1995). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 2(2): 1-456. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps.
    • Jones, M. (1991). A checklist of Gambian plants: 1-33. Michael Jones, The Gambia College.
    • Lebrun, J.p., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso: 1-341. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Boulvert, Y. (1977). Catalogue de la Flore de Centrafrique 3: 1-89. ORSTROM, Bangui.
    • Peyre de Fabregues, B. & Lebrun, J.-P. (1976). Catalogue des Plantes Vascularies du Niger: 1-433. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972). Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional: 1-289. Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort.
    • Exell, A.W. & Wild, H. (eds.) (1961). Flora Zambesiaca 1(2): 337-581. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Hutchinson, J., Dalziel, J.M. & Keay, R.W.J. (1954-1958). Flora of West Tropical Africa, ed. 2, 1: 1-828.

    Sources

    Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
    [A] Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2018. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    [B] © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2018. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    [C] © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    [D]
    [E] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Plants and People Africa
    Common Names from Plants and People Africa http://www.plantsandpeopleafrica.com/
    [F] © Plants and People Africa http://www.plantsandpeopleafrica.com http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/