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February 5, 2015

Thirteen Things About the Baobab Tree

Thursday Thirteen

I’m currently working on the third book in my House of the Cat series. One of the characters is a tremin, and although sentient, he bears many characteristics of a tree. Hubby and I were walking the dog, and I said to him, “My character is a tree. Not a real tree, at least not all the time. He needs to be a tree that can survive in the desert. What sort of tree would he be?”

Hubby didn’t hesitate. “A baobab tree,” he said.

It was a duh moment for me. We’d seen enough of them when we visited Africa. A baobab was perfect, so I’ve taken many characteristics and shaped them to make Kelvin, my tremin.

Baobab Tree

Thirteen Facts About the Baobab Tree

1. The baobab grows in Africa, Madagascar and Australia. Six of the eight species grow in Madagascar, which has puzzled botanists for a long time.

2. The baobab hates waterlogged roots.

3. It can grow back new bark even if fully stripped. The fibres of the bark can be used for roofing and to make ropes, which is used in fishing, baskets and nets.

4. The seed pods are huge. The pith inside can be used to make a refreshing drink, which tastes like sherbet. It can also be used as a substitute for cream of tartar.

5. Sometimes the pith is used in a medicine as a replacement for quinine.

6. Locals use the empty seed pobs as cups and containers.

7. Some of the trees are enormous with huge girths. One called Chapman’s baobab had a base of 85 feet in circumference.

8. The trees are unusual in that they look as if they’re planted upside down.

9. The trees store a lot of water in their trunks to sustain them during the dry season. A perfect fact for my plot!

10. Some legends state that each baobab contains an elephant inside, waiting to get out. A way of explaining its huge trunk.

11. The Kalahari bushman believe the baobab offended God and in punishment, he planted it upside down.

12. The flowers of the tree bloom at night. Bats thump into them while hunting for food, and in the process help with pollination.

13. The seeds hang down on long stalks and are about the size of a coconut.

Source: The Remarkable Baobab Tree by Thomas Pakenham.

I love trees and from where I sit right now, I can see quite a few varieties. My favorites are some of our New Zealand native trees, which are just about all evergreen. Some, like the kowhai and the pohutukawa, have gorgeous flowers.

What is your favorite type of tree?


  1. Ron.

    Here in Vermont, it is nearly illegal–and certainly social suicide– to even acknowledge the existence of any tree other than the Sugar Maple.

    • Shelley Munro

      LOL – maple syrup is really expensive down this end of the world.

  2. kezzela

    12 fascinating

    • Shelley Munro

      Hmm, it’s suddenly occurred to me I need to work out how tremin reproduce…

  3. Colleen

    One of my favorite trees. It sounds like mutant. I remember learning once that willow bark had the same stuff in aspirin and I tinctured it.

    • Shelley Munro

      The trees are very different. The ones in Madagascar grow in avenues and look very cool. Was the tincture successful?

  4. Heather L

    Is there a more fun tree name than baobab? I did not know it blooms at night, but I suppose that makes sense in hot desert settings.

    • Shelley Munro

      And just perfect on which to base my character :)

  5. Alice Audrey

    I think the baobab will make a perfect character for you.

    • Shelley Munro

      Yes, he’s a secondary character who plays an important part in the plot. I’ve come to like him a lot.

  6. CountryDew

    This sounds wonderful. I love the idea of what you’re doing. Very imaginative.

    My favorite tree is a willow. I love how it creates a place to hide.

    • Shelley Munro

      Thanks! We have a native tree called the rimu and it droops down a bit like a willow to create hiding places. I remember playing under them when I was a kid.

  7. The Gal Herself

    What a cool post! How can you not love a tree that produces a drink that tastes like sherbet AND offended the gods?

    My favorite is the weeping willow.

    • Shelley Munro

      Add in the fact they hide elephants and they’re very intriguing!

  8. Carol Kilgore

    Fascinating! I love learning things like this. I’ve heard of the baobab tree, but didn’t know much about it.

    • Shelley Munro

      You see a lot in Africa and the animals love the shade they provide as evidenced by the photo above.

  9. Maria Zannini

    I’d heard of this tree before but I never knew its name. I’m particularly fascinated that so many of the species grow in Madagascar.

    And the idea of a man with the characteristics of a tree is brilliant. It reminded me of the story of Apollo and Daphne. Color me intrigued!

    • Shelley Munro

      I’ve seen some photos of the Madagascar ones and the trees grow in impressive avenues. They’re pretty amazing.

      Thanks re the tree character. Sometimes I worry about the way my mind works.

  10. Mary Kirkland

    Oh wow, that is a huge tree and so interesting. The drink made from the pods that tastes like sherbet would probably be something hubby would really like.

    Favorite tree would be the Weeping Willow. I just love how it hangs and if you sit under it there’s so much shade. They get huge and the hanging parts can hang all the way to the ground if not cut and left alone for years.

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