Home Forums African Health & Wellness The Tree of Life and its Numerous Values.

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    Victory Amah
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      The grand but beleaguered specie of tree called Africa’s “Tree of Life” is known for its many uses, remarkable lifespan, economic, and social impact on the lives of animals, humans, and the community.

      This tree of life found in only 32 countries can live up to 2000 years reaching up to 30 metres high and up to an enormous 50 metres in circumference. These trees grow in very harsh – dry, arid conditions but have wonderfully adapted to their environment. The peculiar characteristic of the tree is its resilience and perseverance to grow in impossible conditions where all others fail. This tree is native to Madagascar, Mainland Africa, and Australia.

      During the dry seasons, the baobab sheds its leaves to reduce water loss. It also has a deep tap root that spreads out giving it a higher chance of survival when water is scarce and the thick bark which is often able to regenerate prevents it from bushfires.

      During rainy seasons, it absorbs and stores water in its vast trunk of which 60-75% is just water enabling it to produce a high-nutrition fruit in the dry season when all around is dry. The flowers open around dusk, opening so quickly that movement can be detected by the naked eye, and are faded by the next morning. The fruits are large, oval to round, and berry-like and hold kidney-shaped seeds in a dry, pulpy matrix.

                  

      When devoid of leaves in the dry season, the relatively small spreading branches of the baobab look like roots sticking up into the air, giving an impression that the tree is planted ‘upside-down’. Hence, sometimes called the ‘upside-down’ tree. This is in addition to other names like the Bottle tree (shape), the Cream of Tartar tree, or the Monkey Bread tree.

      These trees grow slowly and have a long lifespan, some of these trees are reportedly more than 800 years old. One of them, the Panke baobab in Zimbabwe was some 2,450 years old when it died in 2011, making it the oldest angiosperm ever documented. Two other trees; Dorslandboom in Namibia and Glencoe in South Africa were estimated to be approximately 2,000 years old.

      This tree is called the Tree of Life because of its so many usefulness, every part of the Baobab is valuable or useful in its way. In traditional medicine the leaves are used to cure diseases like kidney and bladder disease, they are used for asthma, insect bites, and even infectious diseases. The bark can be turned into rope, clothes, hats, or even strings for musical instruments. The fruit has a lot of nutritional value and can be used to make other healthy foods like beverages, and desserts, or even as a flavorful ingredient in the local rhum. The oil from the seeds is used in the cosmetics industry and the water stored in the trunk can be harvested by thirsty travelers, the earliest record being the San bushmen. This tree also provides food and shelter for different kinds of specie, it creates its unique ecosystem.

      Of all the eight species, six are native to Madagascar, one to mainland Africa, and one to Australia.

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