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Once a Pub, Always a Legend – The Story of the Sunland Baobab

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Written By Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

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Home » Ancient & Remarkable Trees » Once a Pub, Always a Legend – The Story of the Sunland Baobab

Nestled in the heart of Limpopo Province, South Africa, the Sunland Baobab has been standing tall—quite literally—for over a millennium.

Known variously as the Platland Baobab, Mooketsi Baobab, and even the Pub Tree, this giant baobab (Adansonia digitata) once soared to a height of 72 feet and boasted a girth that could rival a small cottage at 154 feet around.

Massive Sunland Baobab
Image via amanderson2 via Flickr (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Carbon dating tells us this botanical behemoth sprouted around 950 AD, give or take a few decades, making it over a thousand years old.

Over the centuries, it has not only witnessed the ebb and flow of seasons but also served as a silent spectator to human history, from Bushmen to Voortrekkers.

One of its most charming features was its hollow trunk, which, until a few years ago, housed a rather spirited bar and a wine cellar!

Inside the Sunland Baobab
Inside the Sunland Baobab – Image via South African Tourism via Flickr (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

The hollow had been cleared of accumulated compost back in 1993, and what they found inside was a history lesson in itself: remnants from fires dating back to 1650 AD.

This natural cavern, once just the right size for some creative refurbishing, was transformed into a cozy pub complete with draft beer and a music system, hosting parties for up to 60 people.

A second hollow, kept at a steady 22 °C thanks to the tree’s own air conditioning system, cradled a wine cellar.

However, even giants can’t stand tall forever. In 2016 and 2017, the tree suffered major splits, leading to the demise of the once-buzzing tree bar.

Split and Fallen Sunland Baobab
Image by Eleb10 via Trip Advisor

The property owners have chosen to let nature take its course, leaving the fallen trunk to gradually reintegrate with the earth.

This tale of the Sunland Baobab isn’t just a story of longevity and collapse, but also a poignant reminder of nature’s cycles.

As it turns out, the Sunland Baobab wasn’t alone in its fate—research from 2018 suggests that many of Africa’s oldest and largest baobabs have met similar ends over the past dozen years.

While the bar is no longer serving, the legend of the Sunland Baobab continues to pour out tales of a time when humans quite literally partied inside a piece of natural history.

The Sunland Baobab Before its Death
Image via South African Tourism via Flickr (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Digging Deeper

Location

The Sunland Baobab is located on Sunland Farm, near Modjadjiskloof in Limpopo Province, South Africa.

Gathering Around the Sunland Baobab
Image via South African Tourism via Flickr (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Type of Tree

It is a Baobab (Adansonia digitata), known for its enormous size and longevity.

Is The Sunland Baobab Still Alive?

Most of the tree died in 2016 and 2017, though parts of its massive trunk remain standing.

Can You Visit It?

Yes, the site remains a tourist attraction, though the tree bar and wine cellar previously housed within are no longer operational.

Conservation

The remaining parts of the tree are being left to decay naturally, allowing the area to gradually return to its natural state.

Legacy

The Sunland Baobab’s legacy continues as an emblem of natural history and resilience, having served both ecological and cultural roles during its millennium-long life.

Want More?

Fascinated by the Sunland Baobab?

Take a look at some other extraordinary trees that capture the imagination.

Visit the mystical Jōmon Sugi on Yakushima Island, an ancient cedar that has witnessed millennia.

Wander around the hauntingly beautiful Ghostly Sunken Forest in Lake Kaindy, where submerged trees eerily breach the surface.

Stand in awe before Methuselah, the ancient bristlecone pine known as one of the oldest living organisms on Earth.

Marvel at the Moon Trees, grown from seeds that orbited the moon with Apollo 14, showcasing the incredible resilience of life.

And don’t overlook the Tree of 40 Fruit, an artistic botanical project grafting numerous fruit branches onto a single tree.

Sources:Wikipedia & Trip Advisor

Featured Image Credit: South African Tourism via Flickr (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Photo of author

Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

Lakeisha grew up in East Africa, literally surrounded by nature which sparked her interest in learning more about trees and plants from a very young age. She belongs to a family of gardeners, so for her, gardening is a way of life, a tradition she’s proud to uphold. As a self-taught gardener, Lakeisha has successfully grafted trees to produce hybrids for gardens and landscapes. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about her experience with nature or watching baking fails!