The African Baobab

October 30, 2020
The African Baobab

The baobab is surely the botanical symbol of Africa, instantlyrecognizable from afar and a compelling icon of the Africanlandscape. This age-old 'upside-down tree' invariably inspireswonder, awe and mystery, and has intrigued travellers for hundredsof years.In this absorbing and inspired account of The AfricanBaobab, author Rupert Watson explores the life and times ofthis fascinating tree, from its early Madagascan beginnings to itspresent status on the continent and its future in a changingAfrica. He effortlessly mixes natural science, history and personalexperience, drawing on extracts from the journals of earlyexplorers who, on encountering these extraordinary trees, measuredand sketched them for a sceptical audience back home; and hepresents intriguing, detailed accounts of the baobab's eccentricgrowth and reproductive habits, its present-day distribution, andits wide impact on everyday African life.The author takes a close look at the myriad uses of baobabs overthe ages: their hollow centres have served as prisons, toilets,wells and bars, and some specimens have even been used as a refugein battle or as burial sites. Their fibre, seeds and fruit arecredited with hundreds of applications, both practical andmedicinal. Many locals feel a spiritual connection to these trees –believing them to possess mystical powers – and use them in ritualsto promote healing or luck. Other relationships between humans andthe baobab are explored too, often illustrated by delightfulanecdotes.The rich and enthusiastic text is complemented by evocative,colourful images that show the curious baobab in all its manystages, moods and guises – and sometimes in the most unlikelyplaces. This book cannot fail to inspire.