Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tanzania Tuesday #3

Adansonia digitata, the baobab tree. Image from plantzafrica.com
The trunk of a baobab tree can grow up to 30 feet in diameter. These unmistakeable trees are pollinated by fruit bats and live up to 2000 years. By legend, anyone who picks the white flower of the baobab tree will be killed and eaten by a lion, since spirits inhabit the flowers of the baobab. (This might actually have some basis in fact; once the flower drops off the tree they turn brown and smell unpleasant, like rotting meat.)

There are many legends and superstitions surrounding the baobab tree. For example, it is believed that an elephant frightened the maternal ancestor of the baobab. In some parts the baobab is worshipped as a symbol of fertility. It is also believed that water in which the seeds have been soaked will offer protection against attack by crocodile, while sucking or eating the seeds may attract crocodiles. It is also believed that a man who drinks an infusion of the bark will become strong. In some areas a baby boy should be bathed in such a bark infusion, as this will make him strong; however, he should not be bathed for too long or he may become obese. It is also important that this water does not touch his head for this could cause it to swell. When inhabitants move from one area to another they often take seeds of the baobab with them, which they plant at their new homestead.

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