This stand of young adult Adansonia digitata trees in the north of Limpopo shows some fairly leafy crowns, more flat-topped than rounded. Lateral branches, even high up, become of secondary importance as the trunk gains height and discards them.
The young, smooth stems haven’t yet started bulging, the uneven growth that produces stem fluting, creases and hollows. All kinds of homing species vie with each other for property or temporary residential rights in suitable niches of older baobab trunks. These trees will not escape regular inspection over the years by wildlife real estate specialists as their trunks expand.
The widest baobab trunk girth on record is 47 m. Hollows developing in very old trees have been used by people as homes, jails, post offices, bus shelters and pubs. Internet cafés have yet to be added.
Based on carbon dating and guesstimates, it is averred that these trees reach ages of 1500 to 2000 years. Factual information about baobab age is hard to come by. The annual growth rings are too faint to count. The soft texture of the “wood” has something to do with that.
The tree’s natural enemies are mainly drought, water logging, lightning, elephants and black fungus. These days people are, of course, added to about all lists of enemies of (other) species on earth. Global warming may not affect the tropical baobab too badly, if the rain does not stay away.
When a baobab dies it collapses “into a mound of fibrous pulp” according to Coates Palgrave. So, don’t expect durable timber. Pakenham speaks of miraculous disappearances of ancient baobabs through spontaneous combustion.
The older and less understood a subject, the more extravagant its folklore (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Leistner, (Ed.), 2000; Pakenham, 1996; Wikipedia; www.uq.edu.au).