The demise of the Tree of Life

The demise of the Tree of Life

Baobabs are the  most common trees in Africa and they stand tall in the
forests and are easy to recognize because of their size. The baobab trunks are
thick and bulbous and fat. The Baobab tree is coined “The Tree of life” because
of its adaptability to its environment. It is a succulent, which means that
during the rainy season it absorbs and stores water in its vast trunk, enabling
it to produce a nutrient-dense fruit in the dry season when all around is dry
and arid.

The bark is shiny and red and the trees don’t sway and never
whistle in the wind, these trees can grow upto 100 feet tall. The leaves appear
for just a few months during the wet season. Their most dynamic features are
seen at dusk when their nigh-blooming flowers open for the moths and bath who
drink their pollen, and in dueath, when they topple suddenly and dramatically in
a few hours. The fruits ate large pods known as “monkey-bread” or cream of tartar
fruits” and is highly nutritious.

It’s the national tree of Madagascar where six of its nine
species are found there.  The trees can
also be found in Botswana, Madagascar, Senegal and Togo amongst other nations.  The tree is considered to be endangered because
in June 2018 the scientific journal “Nature Plants” claimed the Baobabs was
dying. The Baobabs are known for living for thousands of years so their dying
is a cause of concern.  They trees are
aged between 1,200 and 2500 years and various studies undertaken show that is
rarely now can find a young Baobab.

The rarest of the tree are also found in Madagascar, namely the
Perrieri and Suarez Baobabs. In Botswana the Chapman’s Baobab, one of the
continent’s largest trees fell in 2016 but in 2018 it was said to be still
alive as green shoots have emerged from it over the past two years. This tree
is actually a monument and was said to be centuries old

Jaimie Lowe says the tree was clearly in danger before the
study (June 2018) as several species of Baobabs are on the International Union
for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species because of human
encroachment.  In Botswana, Namibia,
South Africa, and Zimbabwe temperatures are already warming faster than the
global average and drought intensifies yearly. But the baobab is actually
thriving in many parts of northern Africa.  The African Baobab is the one that grows the
largest and to the oldest.

David Baum cited by Lowe an evolutionary biologist, disagreed
with climate changes as the cause of their decline but he’s glad it’s drawing
attention to baobabs. The question of why they are dying is difficult because
there are many factors to consider. Are the baobabs from the study dying
because of rising temperatures or because they are old, or both? Does their
decline indicate the decline of the species? And what does this mean for the
surrounding landscape.

The other reasoning could be in the decline of the fruit
bat, which spreads baobab pollen in the Eastern African regions and Madagascar,
has led to fewer young baobabs, and cattle grazing is another threat to
saplings. There are virtually none in Madagascar now, and no species can
survive without recruitment.

They are believed to have more than 300 uses but they are
dying. Traditionally Baobab leaves, bark and seed have been using to treat “almost
any disease’ including malaria, tuberculosis and other ailments. The pulp from
its fruit is often turned into juice.

Baobabs have a special way of growing multiple fused stems (False
cavities) bark grows, which is unique to the Baobab according to Sanchez (2018)

Elephants love the Baobab leaves so help them get their
favourite food. We need to revive this tree once join Green Promise Initiative raise
awareness by visiting our website or volunteering in any way possible.

Written BY

Martina Kwenda

Green Promise Initiative Zimbabwe


 or www.thegreenromise.org




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