8 Different Types of Baobab Trees & Their Identifying Features (With Photos)

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Written By Lyrae Willis

Environmental Scientist & Plant Ecologist

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Home » Tree Types » 8 Different Types of Baobab Trees & Their Identifying Features (With Photos)

Baobab trees are beautiful and bizarre deciduous trees with incredibly unique cylindrical or bottle-shaped trunks and relatively short, often horizontal branches only at the top of the trees, giving them the nickname ‘upside-down trees’.

There are eight species of baobab trees in the world that all belong to the Adansonia genus of the Malvaceae (Mallow) family.

Six species are endemic to Madagascar, one is native to Africa and Arabia, and one is endemic to Australia. They were also historically introduced into the Indian subcontinent but are not native there.

They are all threatened by development, logging, and climate change, and three of the eight are on the endangered species list.

Baobabs cannot be grown outdoors outside of the tropics. However, they are quickly becoming very popular potted patio plants and low-maintenance bonsai that seldom require watering.

Let’s learn about the different types of baobab trees and their identifying features.

Exploring Varieties – 8 Baobab Tree Types and How to Recognize Them

1. African Baobab – Adansonia digitata (kilima)

African Baobab and elephant
Elephant and African Baobab Tree (Tanzania) – Image by Ferdinand Reus, CC BY-SA 2.0

The African Baobab (A. digitata) is the most widespread species of this unique genus, thriving in hot, dry savannahs where they can dominate the landscape.

While it can grow to 85 ft tall, it typically is much shorter in cultivation and can easily be grown in pots on patios and is gaining popularity in the art of bonsai, where it is easy to grow and requires little watering.

You probably wouldn’t think of a baobab as a fruit tree species, yet the fruit of the Baobab tree is very nutritious, and the whole tree has been a source of food, shelter, medicine, and water anywhere they are found.

In South Africa, elephants often seek out baobab trees for their nutrient-rich bark and fruit, playing a key role in the ecosystem by dispersing the trees’ seeds.

They are very long-lived trees, with some specimens dated at over 2,000 years.

Sadly, most of the oldest and largest Baobab trees in the world have died in the last 12 years.

It has been introduced to the Indian subcontinent over thousands of years of historical travel. However, they do not appear to be invasive.

Identifying Features of the African Baobab

The African Baobab is a massive pachycaul deciduous tree with single, multiple, cylindrical, or fluted, and often buttressed trunks and unique spreading, rounded crowns with massive irregular branches.

The bark is gray and smooth to irregularly tuberculate (warty).

This baobab’s leaves are palmately compound with 5-7(-9) leaflets with entire margins and early-deciduous stipules.

Flowers usually bloom singly in the wet or dry season with (3-)5-lobed calyx with green triangular lobes with curled matted hairs outside and cream-colored inside with shaggy hairs; it is reflexed in flower.

Petals are white and approximately equal in length to width.

Staminal tubes are cylindrical or tapering with hundreds of free filaments on top.

Styles are white, bent or rarely straight, shaggy-haired below and hairless above with white stigmas.

Fruit is variably shaped with a thick pericarp and velvety yellow-brown or greenish hairs. The dry whitish pulp is embedded with large kidney-shaped seeds.

Often Confused With: The African Baobab is often confused with the Australian Baobab, which has a more bottle-shaped trunk with smooth reddish-gray bark and less variable fruits with olive or greenish hairs. It is also confused with the Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra), which has a thorny trunk and branches, heavily buttressed roots, and smaller fruits filled with fluffy fibers and much smaller seeds.

Other Common Names: Upside-Down Tree, Monkey-Bread Tree, Judas Fruit, and Cream of Tartar Tree.

Native Area: African continent (Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal and Zimbabwe among other countries) and the southern Arabian Peninsula (Yemen, Oman).

USDA Growing Zones: 11 – 13

Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 85 ft height, 30 – 85 ft (to 115 ft) spread

2. Grandidier’s Baobab – Adansonia grandidieri

Grandidiers Baobab
Image by Pat Hooper, CC BY-SA 2.0

Grandidier’s Baobab is another massive tree, one of six endemic to Madagascar and famous for its huge cylindrical trunks with smooth reddish-gray bark and unique bluish-green leaves.

It used to inhabit dry, deciduous forests near seasonal rivers or lakes, but today is mostly found in disturbed scrubland and agricultural lands.

It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, with its population of one million trees declining rapidly where young trees are not regenerating in disturbed habitats. Scientists suggest that the lack of regeneration is often a result of grazing of their seedlings by livestock.

Like all baobabs, it is best grown in well-drained soil in full sun in a tropical climate or in a patio pot in the summer and overwintered indoors. It has very minimal moisture requirements.

Identifying Features of the Grandidieri’s Baobab

Grandidier’s Baobabs have massive, cylindrical trunks, up to 10 ft in diameter, with smooth, reddish-gray bark and a flattened crown with horizontal main branches.

Leaves are palmately compound with 9 – 11 densely stellate (star-shaped) hairy bluish-green leaflets.

Flowers appear in the dry season before the leaves from erect, rounded, dark brown buds. They have partially fused calyxes with 5(3) lobes that are reflexed and twisted at the flower’s base.

The petals are white, becoming yellow, up to 0.8” long.

It has a white staminal tube topped with hundreds of free (unfused) filaments 2.6” long spreading out of the top.

There is a long style emerging past the filaments tipped with a white or pinkish stigma.

Fruits are large, dry, rounded to ovoid with a hard pericarp covered with dense reddish-brown hairs. The edible pulp contains numerous large kidney-shaped seeds.

Often Confused With: Grandidier’s Baobab is sometimes mistaken for Za Boaobab or Fony Baobab, but it can quickly be differentiated from all other baobab trees by its unique reddish-brown trunk and densely stellate (star-shaped) hairy blue-green leaves with 9 – 11 leaflets.

Other Common Names: Giant Baobab, Baobab Malgache (French), and Renala or Reniala (Madagascar).

Native Area: Endemic to southwestern Madagascar between Lac Ihotry and Bereboka.

USDA Growing Zones: 10 – 11b

Average Size at Maturity: 80 – 98 ft tall, 30 – 85 ft spread

3. Perrier’s Baobab – Adansonia perrieri

Perriers Baobab
Images via Rare Palm Seeds – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Perrier’s Baobab is another Madagascar endemic tree, but the rarest of them all found only in the most northern part of the massive island.

It has only been found in 10 locations, with most outside of protected areas and the largest population having only 43 trees.

They are threatened by agriculture, development, fire, cutting for wood, and clearing for mining.

The Perrier’s Baobab is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, with only 152 – 250 individuals remaining.

Their flowers bloom only for one night and are mostly pollinated by Long-Tongued Hawkmoths.

Its leaves and dried fruit pulp were an important food source for the local population.

Identifying Features of the Perrier’s Baobab

Perrier’s Baobabs are medium to large deciduous trees with a mostly cylindrical trunk and pale gray smooth bark.

Leaves are palmately compound with 5 – 11 leaflets or rarely simple leaves with triangular to linear, persistent stipules.

Flowers are large and showy, emerging just before or with the leaves and opening at dusk and usually withering by the next morning.

The calyx is mostly fused, 5-lobed, and green, with cream or pinkish long and straight (pilose) hairs inside; the calyx becomes reflexed in flower.

Petals are pale yellow and attach near the base of the staminal tube.

The staminal tube has about 200 unfused filaments near the top.

There is a long style tipped with a red or pink stigma emerging above the filaments.

Fruits are large (up to 9.85”), elongated (oblong) to egg-shaped (ovate), with a tough pericarp and a dry pulp inside containing numerous kidney-shaped seeds.

Often Confused With: Perrier’s Baobab is an extremely rare tree seldom confused with others and can easily be differentiated from all others by its persistent stipules when in leaf.

Other Common Names: Bozy (Madagascar)

Native Area: Endemic to Antsiranana in northern Madagascar

USDA Growing Zones: 10 – 13

Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 98 ft tall, 40 – 65 ft spread

4. Za Baobab – Adansonia za

Baobab Za
Image by Hectonichus, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Za Baobab is the most widespread baobab tree in Madagascar, where it grows in thickets, deciduous forests, riparian areas, and semi-arid and arid scrub lands, including degraded habitats. It dominates the southern deciduous forests but becomes rarer in the north.

While it is not considered endangered or threatened, its population has still been severely impacted by habitat fragmentation and logging.

The locals eat the Za Baobab trees large black fruits and roots of seedlings and use the bark for fiber to make cloth and rope.

During droughts, the wood is fed to the cattle, and trunks are hollowed out for water storage.

Best grown in full sun in well-drained soil of any quality in tropical areas or grown in pots on a patio and brought indoors for winter. It has very low water requirements and is remarkably drought-resistant.

The largest Za Baobab tree by circumference is about 75 ft and grows near Reakaly Village.

Identifying Features of the Za Baobab

Za Baobab is a pachycaul deciduous tree that is widest at the base and narrows towards the top of the tree. The trunk and branches have a brownish-rose color.

Leaves are palmately compound with 5 – 8 leaflets with entire margins; leaflets on more northern trees are longer than southern trees.

Floral buds are long, green, and cylindrical, resembling a large bean.

Flowers emerge with or just after the leaves in the wet season. The partially fused calyx becomes reflexed to reveal yellow and red 3.9 – 7.9” long petals and long yellowish stamens with a musty sweet scent.

Sphingidae moths pollinate the flowers at night.

Fruits are ovoid, 3.9 – 11.8” long, and nearly half as wide. The outer pericarp is thick and black, and inside, they are filled with laterally flattened kidney-shaped seeds.

Often Confused With: Za Baobab is mostly confused with Fony Baobab, which is typically a smaller tree with a bottle-shaped trunk and compound leaves with 3 – 5 leaflets that have finely toothed margins not seen in any other baobab tree

Other Common Names: Anadzahé (French), or in Malagasy, Bojy, Boringy, Bozy, Bozybe, Ringy, and Za

Native Area: Endemic to southern, south-eastern, and northwestern Madagascar

USDA Growing Zones: 10* – 11 *some sources say 9 – 11

Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 130 ft tall, 30 – 60 ft spread

5. Madagascar Baobab – Adansonia madagascariensis

Madagascar Baobab
Image by Forest and Kim Starr, CC BY 2.0

Madagascar Baobab is another one of the six baobabs endemic to Madagascar. This one lives in moist or dry deciduous forests and grows to about 80 feet tall with a smooth, wide gray trunk and lovely dark red flowers.

Locals eat the soft leaves as a vegetable, and fruits and seeds are also eaten or made into vegetable oil.

The powdered dry fruit of the Madagascar Baobab is frequently used for flavor and as a thickening agent and sweetener for sauces, gravies, and drinks.

It is sometimes grown in tropical environments or in patio pots in cooler climates where they must be overwintered indoors. This variety tolerates a bit more water than most baobab trees, but care should still be taken not to overwater it.

Identifying Features of the Madagascar Baobab

Madagascar Baobab is a pachycaul deciduous tree with a cylindrical or bottle-shaped trunk with smooth, pale gray bark and an irregular crown on top.

Leaves are palmately compound with 5 -7 leaflets and are dry-season deciduous.

The large flowers emerging with the leaves are fragrant with dark red or rarely yellow petals and long thin yellowish stamens. In the center is a long, dark red style with a dark red stigma on top. They open at dusk and are pollinated by Long-Tongued Hawkmoths and finish blooming by morning.

Fruits are rounded and relatively small at less than 3.9” long. They have a thick, tough pericarp and are buoyant and dispersed by water.

Often Confused With: Madagascar Baobab is mostly confused with Za Baobab, which has much larger fruits, 5 – 8 leaflets in its palmately compound leaves, and a usually taller and more tapering trunk that is rose-brown rather than a distinctive pale gray.

Other Common Names: Grey Baobab, Gray Baobab

Native Area: Endemic to Madagascar from Antsiranana at the northern tip south along the west coast to Soalala.

USDA Growing Zones: 10 – 12

Average Size at Maturity: 16 – 65 ft (to 80 ft) tall, 10 – 40 ft spread

6. Fony Baobab – Adansonia rubrostipa

Fony Baobab - Grid 2 Square
Images by LoJallen, Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, and AxelStrauß, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Fony Baobab is another Madagascar endemic tree and the smallest of all the baobabs, usually only growing 15 – 20 ft tall, although taller specimens do exist.

It is easily recognized by its distinctive reddish bark and bottle-shaped trunk. It also often grows in multi-trunked forms.

Locals use Fony Baobabs for shelter and food, and the inner bark is very strong and makes excellent rope.

It grows in well-drained soils in dry deciduous forests and arid scrublands. It is often found on calcareous soils.

It is an important species of the “spiny desert” ecoregion in southern Madagascar.

The Fony Baobab is threatened by habitat loss, logging, and grazing of seedlings which prevents regeneration.

It can be grown in full sun in well-drained soil in tropical climates or in a patio pot and over-wintered indoors in cooler climates. It has very low water requirements.

Identifying Features of the Fony Baobab

Fony Baobab is a small to medium, or rarely large-sized deciduous pachycaul tree with a usually bottle-shaped or sometimes cylindrical trunk with reddish-brown, occasionally peeling bark.

The main branches are horizontal with ascending tips, and they sometimes have spines.

Leaves are palmately compound with 3 – 5 leaflets with finely toothed margins.

Flowers emerge after the leaves from long green, cylindrical floral buds.

The calyx has yellowish-green lobes with reddish stripes and folds back and twists when the flower opens, revealing bright yellow to orange-yellow long, narrow petals that overlap at their bases.

The pale yellow staminal tube is 3.9” long with 100 – 150 free stamens on top.

There is a long pink style topped with a red stigma emerging from the center of the free stamens.

Long-Tongued Hawkmoths nocturnally pollinate it.

Fruits are rounded with a relatively thin (less than 0.2”) pericarp covered with reddish-brown hairs.

Often Confused With: Fony Baboab is mostly confused with Za Baobab, which is a much larger tree with 5 – 8 leaflets with entire (not toothed) margins, flowers with yellow and red petals, and larger fruits with a thicker pericarp

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: Endemic to northeastern and southwestern Madagascar

USDA Growing Zones: 11 – 12

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 30 ft (to 65 ft) tall, 10 – 30 ft spread

7. Australian Baobab – Adansonia gregorii (gibbosa)

Australian Baobab - Adansonia_gregorii
Image by thibaudaronson, CC BY-SA 4.0

Australian Baobab, or as the locals call it, Boab, has a large swollen bottle-like trunk and is native to the western and northeastern parts of the country in Australia.

It is a dry-season deciduous tree that grows leaves and flowers in the wet season.

The Australian Baobab is closely related to the African Baobab, and theories suggest it arrived there with the Aboriginal people roughly 60,000 years ago when they migrated there from Africa.

It grows mostly in open forests and rocky areas at low elevations but is also sometimes found in monsoon forests.

It can be grown in full sun in any soil type, including sand, clay, and even salty soils in tropical climates. It can also be grown in patio pots and over-wintered indoors in cooler climates. It has very low water requirements.

A large hollow specimen of the Australian Baobab in western Australia was once used to lock up prisoners while they await sentencing.

Identifying Features of the Australian Baobab

The Australian Baobab is a small to medium-sized tree with a massive bottle-shaped trunk up to 16 ft in diameter with smooth grayish-red bark

It is a dry season deciduous tree with palmately compound leaves with 5 – 11 leaflets.

Flowers appear with the leaves in the wet season. They are large, up to 3” long, and white and have a 2.4” long, lobed calyx whose inner surface is densely short-appressed silky-hairy (sericeous).

Flowers open only at night and are pollinated by the Convolvulus Hawk-Moth Agrius convolvuli.

Fruits are large, oval, with a hard, dark brown pericarp covered with olive to brownish hairs.

Often Confused With: The Australian Baobab is mostly confused with the closely related African Baobab, which has a taller and less bottle-shaped trunk with gray bark that is sometimes warty (tuberculate) and fruits with yellowish-brown to greenish hairs on the outside

Other Common Names: Boab, Boab Tree, Larrgadi (Australian indigenous locals)

Native Area: Endemic to Australia in the Kimberley region of Western Australia eastward into the Northern Territory

USDA Growing Zones: 10 – 13

Average Size at Maturity: 30 – 40 ft (15 – 60 ft) tall, 6.5 – 35 ft spread

8. Suarez Baobab – Adansonia suarezensis

Suarez Baobab - Adansonia_suarezensis
Image by masindrano, Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Suarez Baobab is a rare endemic tree found on the northern tip of Madagascar near Antsiranana Bay as well as in the Forest of Mahory, where it grows in limestone soils in deciduous forests as well as disturbed scrublands.

It was named after the Portuguese navigator Diego Soares.

The Suarez Baobab’s strong-smelling flowers bloom at night and are visited by moths, bees, sunbirds, and fruit bats that feed on the copious nectar. It is believed that bats are important pollinators.

Local people use the trees for shelter, food, fiber, water, medicine, and ceremonies.

Countless reptiles, bats, and insects live in Suarez Baobab trees.

This baobab tree species is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, and it is threatened by logging, drought, and fungal infections.

Identifying Features of the Suarez Baobab

Suarez Baobab is a medium to large-sized tree with a thick cylindrical trunk up to 6.6 ft in diameter.

The bark is grayish-brown to reddish-brown, and a photosynthetic greenish layer can be seen underneath.

Branches are very few and often completely horizontal, projecting outwards and forming a horizontally flattened canopy.

Leaves are palmately compound with 6 – 9 leaflets and are yellowish-green with entire margins.

Flowers appear after the leaves have fallen; they are large, white, and strong-smelling. They open at dusk and are largely pollinated by bats. Flowers are finished blooming by morning and turn reddish-brown.

Fruits are large, elongated, and pendulous. They ripen in November and can weigh up to 2.2 lbs.

Often Confused With: Suarez Baobab is a rare tree with few completely horizontal main branches; it is seldom confused with any other tree

Other Common Names: Bozy (Madagascar)

Native Area: Narrow endemic of the northern tip of Madagascar near Antsiranana Bay with a disjunct population between the Ankarana and Analamerana Reserves in the Forest of Mahory

USDA Growing Zones: 10 – 13

Average Size at Maturity: 60 – 82 ft tall, 30 – 40 ft spread

Baobab Tree Identification (With Photos)

Identifying Baobab Trees by Their Pachycaul Growth

Baobab trees can easily be identified by their unique pachycaul growth with disproportionately thick trunks with no branches most of their length until the top, where they abruptly terminate in an irregular crown with few branches.

Their trunks are typically very symmetrically cylindrical to bottle-shaped with a narrow constriction near the top. Occasionally the trunks taper more gradually towards the top.

Branches are few and mostly horizontal or sometimes irregular. They only appear at the very top of the trees canopy.

Pachycaul Growth of Baobab Trees - 2 Square
Images by Pat Hooper, CC BY-SA 2.0 and thibaudaronson, CC BY-SA 4.0 – Combined and Text Added by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Identifying Baobab Trees by Their Bark

The color of their bark can also identify the different types of baobab tree species.

Species with red, gray, and brownish bark can be seen.

Most bark is smooth, but some species may have somewhat tuberculate (bumpy or warty) bark, while occasionally, others may peel or exfoliate slightly.

Identifying Baobab Trees by Their Leaves

Baobab trees are tropical trees that are dry-season deciduous. They lose their leaves in the dry season, and they return in the wet season.

Baobab leaves are palmately compound with 5 – 13 leaflets per leaf, depending on the species.

Palmately compound leaves have leaflets that radiate outwards from the petiole, like fingers from the palm of your hand, as shown in the photo below.

Palmately Compound leaves - Adansonia_digitata
Photo of palmately compound leaves of the African Baobab Adansonia digitata (kilima) – by SAplants – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The leaflet margins are mostly smooth without teeth of any kind, except for Fony Baobab, which has finely toothed margins, and this feature can be used to positively identify that species.

Identifying Baobab Trees by Their Flowers

Baobab trees have large unique flowers that typically only bloom for a single night, opening at dusk to be pollinated mostly by moths or occasionally by bats. They then wither by the following morning.

Some baobab trees have white flowers, while others have red, orange, or yellow, allowing you to identify the different types of baobab trees.

Their flowers have a partially fused calyx with usually five lobes. The calyx or sepals are the outer layer or whorl of the flower outside the petals. The color and hairs of the calyx vary between species.

Most flowers have a staminal tube that encases the ovary within. Staminal tubes are made of fused stamens that form a tube in the center of the flowers.

Stamens are the male organs of flowers and are made up of filaments (stalks) and anthers, which are the pollen-producing organs of the flowers. Baobabs have free (unfused) stamens on top of the staminal tube ranging from less than 100 to more than 1600; they are typically quite long and vary in color.

The flowers have a single style and stigma that is in the center of the stamens attached to the ovary. The stigma is the receptive surface of the flower that receives the pollen, and styles are specialized stalks that direct the pollen down into the ovary, where it fertilizes the ovules within to create seeds. The style and stigma colors vary between species and can also be used to identify the different baobab trees.

The photos below show some examples of the different flowers seen in four different types of baobab trees.

Baobab Flowers - 4 Square
Images by Marco Schmidt, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Ben Lewis, CC BY 4.0, AxelStrauß, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, and Forest and Kim Starr, CC BY 2.0 – Images Combined and Text Added by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize.

Identifying Baobab Trees by Their Fruits

Baobabs, exemplifying the pachycarpa characteristic, all produce large berry-like fruits with a hard pericarp (outer layer) and dry pulp inside embedded with seeds.

The size and shape of the fruit as well as the colors of the hairs on the outer surface, can help to identify the different types of baobab tree species.

Whole Adansonia Digitata fruit
Whole African Baobab Fruit by Roger Culos, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Inside the fruits are a dry, edible pulp that is white to yellowish in color. It is a flavorful pulp that the locals eat in a variety of dishes. The photo below is a fresh Fony Baobab fruit that has been cut and is ready to eat.

Cut Baobab Fruit showing Pulp
Cut Fony Baobab Fruit by Jose Antonio, Own work, Public Domain

When the fruits are fully mature, numerous large kidney-shaped seeds are embedded in the pulp. The photo below of a mature fruit with the pulp removed shows how many seeds are contained within a single fruit.

Baobab seeds from one fruit
Seeds of African Baobab by T.K. Naliaka, Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Beautiful Baobab Trees

Growing Baobabs Trees in Your Garden

Climate Requirements for Baobab Trees

Baobabs are all tropical trees with no tolerance for cold temperatures. They thrive in USDA Zones 10 – 13.

If you are not sure which zone you are in, check out the USDA Planting Zones to determine your zone.

If you live in a colder climate and want to grow Baobabs, the good news is that they are quite easy to grow in pots on your patio. Just be sure to bring them indoors before the nighttime temperature drops below 50 F (10 C) as they are not at all cold resistant.

Soil, Water, and Light Requirements for Baobab Trees

Baobab trees are quite easy to grow if you create the right conditions. They are mostly native to semi-arid and arid regions, so proper drainage is necessary for most species.

Soil should be quite sandy, but adding compost will help keep the tree healthy and fed. Either use a cactus premix soil or create your own mix with 3 parts compost, 2 parts sand, and 1 part soil.

Baobab trees are sun-lovers and will take as much sunlight as possible. They must have a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight daily, or they will grow slowly and become spindly.

If bringing it indoors in the winter, make sure the temperature does not drop below 50 F (10 C) and make sure it still gets enough light. Provide a broad spectrum grow light if the natural lighting is insufficient.

Baobab trees store water in their trunks and are adapted to arid climates, so watering is done sparingly, similar to how you would water a cactus. Allow the soil to dry completely between waterings. Watering roughly once per month is often sufficient, even in bonsai form.

If growing in pots, be sure your pot has good drainage to ensure that any excess water can drain freely. Be sure the pot’s saucer is not too deep; if overwatered, that could allow the pot to remain saturated and rot the roots.

In the winter, while dormant and not in leaf, water even more sparingly and do not fertilize.

Propagation of Baobab Trees

Growing baobab from seed is relatively easy if you follow a few simple recommendations, and seeds for most of the species can be found online.

Germination rates for their seeds are low, so be sure to plant a number of extra seeds. It can take anywhere from a week to a month or occasionally up to several months.

To increase germination rates, place the seeds in warm water and allow them to soak overnight. Then scarify the seeds by scraping them on sandpaper to expose their inner white layer.

Next, dry the seeds for a day before planting them 1” deep in moist, but not wet, soil that is kept at least above 60 F (15 C). A seedling heat mat could be used if your temperatures are not consistently warm enough.

Once it forms roots, they can be potted or planted. Seedlings require more water than trees, but still be careful not to overwater.

Baobabs can also be grown from cuttings that are best taken in the spring when in leaf.

Take cuttings with 3 leaves on them and allow them to dry for a few days like you would a cactus cutting to prevent rot. Then plant the stems in a sandy soil mix.

Plants grown in pots could be given low doses of fertilizer once per month in the growing season. Be sure it is high in potassium and low in nitrogen; a good succulent blend will work well. Do not fertilize mature outdoor-grown trees.

If you want to grow baobab as a bonsai, check out this bonsai tree article for more information on baobab bonsai and growing bonsai trees.

Interesting Facts About Baobab Trees

Most Baobab species can live incredibly long lifespans, 2000 years is not uncommon.

The Boab Prison Tree in Derby, Australia, was used in the 1890s to hold Aboriginal prisoners while waiting for sentencing. Another hollow boab in Western Australia was also used for this same purpose.

Dendroglyphs are etchings marked on Australian baobabs done by Aboriginal people. They can last for hundreds of years and have been used to study the native people, the animals they used or were important to them, their travels, and the importance of the trees to the people in their daily life.

Baobabs are often called upside-down trees because of their unique growth. Some African legends say that the tree became arrogant, getting caught up in its own beauty, and the gods pulled it out and planted it upside down to teach it a lesson.

Human Uses of Baobab Trees

Baobabs were widely used by local people everywhere they grow. They are a source of wood, charcoal, and fiber made from their bark, which is made into cloth, rope, and cordage.

Some of the largest and oldest trees can hold 26,000 US gal of water and are often a source of water in the arid habitats they grow for both humans and their livestock.

The fruits are often eaten, with the dry powdering material in the seed pods said to taste like sherbert or cream of tartar. It is used as a thickener and flavoring agent for sauces, gravies, and other dishes, and it is very high in Vitamin C.

The seeds are also eaten or turned into vegetable oil since they contain 11% oil.

The bark and leaves are used medicinally, especially for digestive ailments.

The leaves are also sometimes boiled and eaten like spinach, which is very nutritious and high in iron.

Seeds are sometimes ground and used as a coffee-like beverage or fermented and made into beer.

Baobabs are often used as temporary shelters or small homes by indigenous people and they offer both ecological and cultural benefits diverse classes of wildlife and human communities that rely on them.

Baobab Shelter
Baobab Tree Shelter by Rwebogora, Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Wildlife Values Baobab Trees Provide

Baobab tree flowers, though short-lived, are rich in nectar and provide important food for various moths, bats, birds, and bees.

The trees provide a habitat for countless reptiles and insects and are used for shelter by small and large animals alike. Birds sometimes nest in their canopy.

Baobabs are some of the most beautiful, unique, and fascinating trees on earth, with a rich and fascinating history. I hope you have enjoyed learning more about the types of Baobab trees and how to identify them.

I know I did, in fact, I plan to order some seeds now and grow my own!

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Photo of author

Lyrae Willis

Environmental Scientist & Plant Ecologist

Lyrae grew up in the forests of BC, Canada, where she got a BSc. in Environmental Sciences. Her whole life, she has loved studying plants, from the tiniest flowers to the most massive trees. She is currently researching native plants of North America and spends her time traveling, hiking, documenting, and writing. When not researching, she is homeschooling her brilliant autistic son, who travels with her and benefits from a unique hands-on education about the environment around him.

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