Adansonia digitata (Baobab)

  • TropPlant Accession Number (TPAN): 0098
  • Botanical Name: Adansonia digitata
  • Common Name: Baobab, African Baobab, Dead Mouse Tree, Dead Rat Tree, Monkey-Bread Tree, Upside-Down Tree, Cream of Tartar Tree
  • Cultivar: N/A
  • Family: Malvaceae

Adansonia digitata 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

  • Native To: Africa (range is nearly all of Africa especially dry shrub land and savanna)

Landscaping Information: 

    • Plant Type: Tree
    • Texture: Fine, Open, Smooth
    • Form: Upright-broad
    • Height (on average, in landscape use): 45'-60'
    • Height to Spread Ratio: 1:1
    • Growth Rate: Slow-Fast (depending on rainfall and groundwater)
    • Landscape Values: Accent, Shade, Sculptural Form, Space Division, Specimen, Windbreak
    • Outstanding Quality: Form/Silhouette, Bark

    Botanical Descriptions:

    • Flowers: Mallow-type flower; large, leathery, pendulous white flowers with five petals and 5 sepals. An abundance of stamen protrude from the flower. Flowers open from late afternoon to dusk and remain open for about 24 hrs. If not fertilized, the flowers fall off the tree. When first opening, the smell is sweet and pleasant to the human, but begin to smell like rotting flesh (carrion).  
    Adansonia digitata flower
    Photo by Matthew Gaston 


    • Fruits: Capsule, indehiscent. oblong, somewhat woody; pubescent with reddish brown to light brown hues. Notably pendulous; likened to a rat hung by its tail and pinned to a tree. 
    Adansonia digitata fruits
    Photo by Matthew Gaston 

    Adansonia digitata fruit (aka the dead rat) with smashed capsule
    Photo by Matthew Gaston 

    Adansonia digitata fruit (aka the dead rat without the tail)
    Photo by Matthew Gaston 

    • Foliage Color: Young/immature: Light Green. Mature: Bright Medium Green 
    • Foliage Tip: Acute
    • Foliage Base: Acute
    • Petiole: Present
    • Stipules: Present
    • Margins: Smooth
    • Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
    • Leaf Shape: elliptic to lanceolate
    • Leaf Type: Palmately Lobed, usually 5 leaflets but sometimes 7 (digitata refers to the digits of the hand being 5)
    • Leaf Texture: Smooth, but structured with prominent venation.
    • Leaf Special Notes: A handsome leaf usually too far away for careful inspection. Most people are in awe at the size, rendering the cool leaves the subject of conversation after the size, shape, bark, fruits, and flowers.
    • Bark and Trunk: Smooth gray to reddish brown colored bark. So smooth it can appear shiny.
    Adansonia digitata bark
    Photo by Matthew Gaston 

    Horticultural Information: 

      • Light Preference: Full Sun
      • Light Tolerances: Semi-Sun
      • Soil Preferences: Loam, Dry (Mesic), Dry (Xeric), Well-Drained
      • Tolerances:  Moderate Winds, Drought
      • Water Requirements: Grows quicker with more water, but does not appreciate standing water or very tropical climates. Native to the sub-tropical sub-Saharan scrub land, ergo water accordingly.
      • Notes on Maintenance: A marvelous tree. The iconic silhouette of the baobab represents the African savanna  and the wildlife within. Does not enjoy abundant water, especially if planted in an area that gets standing water. Fruits and flowers are relatively large and can cause a nuisance in transit-ways. Baobabs are understood to be the longest living angiosperms easily living over 1,000 years. (The understood live-time is about 1,500 years) Traders brought the Baobab with them and planted them in villages. The trees often would outlive the village. Important to note that these are pachycauls, so their trunks get large and girthy. Plan infrastructure accordingly. The UH Manoa Art and Art History Department Building was designed around the existing Baobob. 
      • Propagation: Seeds
      • Minimum USDA Hardiness Zone: 11b
      • Weed Risk Assessment Score (WRA): -6, Low Risk

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