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.

    [UPPd]
    Gums, Mucilages or Resins
    A gum is obtained and, although bitter, is eaten in times of famine. Exudates - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    Shade Shelter
    Birds and Bees utilise hollow trunks for shelter Stems - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    Other Materials
    Cleansers - Juice extracted from the fresh bark of the Baobab tree is inserted into the wound of an animal killed by a poisoned arrow, to ensure that the meat is cleansed. Bark - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta Fishing Equipment - Stems can be used as large fishing nets Stems - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value. Containers/holders - Hollow trunks used to store water and grain Stems - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    Wood
    Constructions Stems - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping Paper Stems - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value. Constructions Stems - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Other Chemicals
    Fermentation Agents (non-food) - The addition of leaves will speed up the fermentation process of wine for 'do-it-yourself' wine makers. Leaves - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional
    Nutritional Disorders
    If the children get very thin, the Batswana cut the bark and tie it around the child's waist so that they will grow strong, like the tree. Bark - Field guide to the plants of Northern Botswana including the Okavango delta
    Mental Disorders
    Infused with the whole plant of Myrothamnus flabellifolius Welw, and preparation is taken orally for madness. Roots and bark - A Preliminary Inventory of Plants for psychoactive purposes in Southern African healing traditions
    Vegetables
    Leaves - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping Leaves cooked as green vegetable Leaves - Field guide to trees of Southern Africa The leaves, when fresh, are eaten as a spinach. Leaves - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value. The root of the young Baobab is edible. Roots (incl. Rhizomes etc) - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    Other Animal Food Type
    Other Game Animals - Because of the moisture content, the bark is much favoured by elephants. They cause severe damage, especially during times of drought when large portions of inner trunk are chiselled out. It is claimed that this wood contains as much
    Food Additives
    The extracted fluid from the trunk is used as a dilutant for milk. Exudates - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value. Burnt wood ash used as salt substitute Other plant parts - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value. The leaves can be used as a condiment and are said to contain a high percentage of mucilage. Leaves - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value. Spices and condiments. Leaves - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Digestive System Disorders
    The leaves contain tannin which is effective for the treatment of diarrhoea Leaves - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    Infections & Infestations
    The leaves contain tannin which is effective for the treatment of fever. Leaves - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value. The bark has been sold commercially in Europe under the name ' Cortex cael cedra' to treat fevers Bark - Medicinal plants of south africa The bark, which has a bitter taste, was once marketed commercially for the treatment of fevers under the name 'cortex cael cedra'. Bark - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    Sacred Spiritual Plants
    There is a Bushman legend concenring the origin of the tree: in the beginning seeds and plants were distributed by the gods to the animals of the world to cultivate. The Baobab was issued to the hyena, which was the very last in the queue, and he was so u It is believed in East Africa that the lord of rain, 'Resa', resides in the uppermost branches of an enormous Baobab in order to support the sky. Live plant (in situ) - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicina
    Herbage
    Unspecified Animal Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping Unspecified Animal Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping Other Game Animals - Fallen leaves are eagerly eaten by browsers. Leaves - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    Oils & Fats
    Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Starches
    Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping Bulbs and terminals of roots can be used to make a porridge. Roots (incl. Rhizomes etc) - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    Unspecified Fuel Type
    Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
    Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Hallucinogens
    Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Essential Oils
    Unspecified Product Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Fibres
    Unspecified Product Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping Other Products - The fibrous bark is pounded for use in making ropes and mats. Bark - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value. Fishing Equipment - The bark is stripped pounded and soaked, providing fibrous material of up to 1.5m long. The process of removing the bark can be done so that is does not damage the tree. The fiber is used to manufacture fishing nets. Bark - The Shell f Other Products - The bark is stripped pounded and soaked, providing fibrous material of up to 1.5m long. The process of removing the bark can be done so that is does not damage the tree. The fiber is used to manufacture sacking. Bark - The Shell field gui Clothing - The bark is stripped pounded and soaked, providing fibrous material of up to 1.5m long. The process of removing the bark can be done so that is does not damage the tree. The fiber is used to manufacture clothing. Bark - The Shell field guide se Musical Instruments (expand Notes) - The bark is stripped pounded and soaked, providing fibrous material of up to 1.5m long. The process of removing the bark can be done so that is does not damage the tree. The fibres serve as strings for musical instrume
    Tannins Dyestuffs
    Unspecified Product Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping Unspecified Product Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping Pigments Roots (incl. Rhizomes etc) - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value. Pigments - A red dye can be obtained from the roots. Roots (incl. Rhizomes etc) - The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    [KSP]
    Use
    Foodstuff, medicine, rope-making, basketry.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    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

    Adansonia digitata L. appears in other Kew resources:

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

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015) The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan . Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [2] (2014) Phytotaxa 171: 1-78
    • [3] Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013) Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh , Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh
    • [5] (2012) Boissiera 65: 1-391
    • [6] (2012) Nelumbo 54: 39-91
    • [7] (2012) Webbia; Raccolta de Scritti Botanici 67: 65-91
    • [10] (2011) Bothalia, A Journal of Botanical Research 41: 41-82
    • [11] Onana, J.M. (2011) The vascular plants of Cameroon a taxonomic checklist with IUCN assessments . National herbarium of Cameroon, Yaoundé
    • [13] 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
    • [14] (2008) Strelitzia 22: 1-279. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria
    • [17] (2006) Garcia de Orta, Série de Botânica 17: 97-141
    • [19] Sita, P. & Moutsambote, J.-M. (2005) Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Congo , ed. sept. 2005: 1-158. ORSTOM, Centre de Brazzaville
    • [20] (2003) Strelitzia 14: 1-1231. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria
    • [25] (1995) Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 2(2): 1-456. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps
    • [26] Govaerts, R. (1995) World Checklist of Seed Plants 1(1, 2): 1-483, 529. MIM, Deurne
    • [28] Barry, J. P. & Celles, J.S. (1991) Flore de Mauritanie 1: 1-359. Centre Regional de Documentation Pedagogique, Nice.
    • [29] Jones, M. (1991) A checklist of Gambian plants . Michael Jones, The Gambia College
    • [30] Lebrun, J.p., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991) Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort
    • [32] Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986) Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali . Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux
    • [33] Boulvert, Y. (1977) Catalogue de la Flore de Centrafrique 3: 1-89. ORSTROM, Bangui
    • [34] Peyre de Fabregues, B. & Lebrun, J.-P. (1976) Catalogue des Plantes Vascularies du Niger . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort
    • [35] Lebrun, J.-P., Audru, J., Gaston, A. & Mosnier, M. (1972) Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Tchad Méridional . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort
    • [36] (1961) Flora Zambesiaca 1(2): 337-581. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [37] (1954-1958) Flora of West Tropical Africa , ed. 2, 1: 1-828
    • [38] (1948-1963) Flore du Congo Belge et du Ruanda-Urundi 1-10: null

    Literature

    • [4] Field guide to trees of Southern Africa
    • [8] Living with the trees of life: Towards the transformation of tropical agriculture
    • [9] 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.
    • [12] Field guide to the plants of Northern Botswana including the Okavango delta
    • [15] Wickens, G. E. & Lowe, P. (2008). The Baobabs: Pachycauls of Africa, Madagascar and Australia. Berlin, Germany; New York, NY: Springer.
    • [16] 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.
    • [18] Sacande, M., Ronne, C., Sanon, M. D. & Joker, D. (2006). Adansonia digitata L.: Seed Leaflet 109 (pdf). Forest & Landscape Denmark, Denmark.
    • [21] Coates Palgrave, K. (2002). Trees of Southern Africa, 3rd Edition. Struik, Cape Town, Johannesburg.
    • [22] A Preliminary Inventory of Plants for psychoactive purposes in Southern African healing traditions
    • [23] Medicinal plants of south africa
    • [24] The Shell field guide series: Part I: Trees and Shrubs of the Okavango Delta. Medicinal uses and nutritional value.
    • [27] Beentje, H. J. (1994). Kenya Trees, Shrubs and Lianas. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.
    • [31] Beentje, H. J. (1989). Bombacaceae. In: Flora of Tropical East Africa, ed. R. M. Polhill. Balkema, Rotterdam.

    Sources

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
    [A] See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [B] © 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
    [C]
    [D] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Kew Library Art and Archives
    [E] Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Plants and People Africa
    Roger and Alison Heath, Plants and People Africa
    [F]

    Project MGU - Useful Plants Project (UPP) database
    [G]