Planting a baobab tree is a fun activity for those looking to spice up their property with new and interesting trees. The baobab tree’s strange proportions have earned it the nickname of upside-down tree. With short, stubby branches and a massive, barrel-shaped trunk, the tree looks like it has roots growing from its crown. With some specimens surviving for as long as 400 years, the baobab (Adansonia digitata) is one of the longest-living trees on the planet. Native to sub-Saharan Africa, the tree is extremely drought-tolerant, but it cannot handle freezing temperatures. In the U.S., it can thrive only in USDA hardiness zone 10. Growing one yourself is a straightforward but slow process.
Soak the kidney-shaped seeds in warm water for 24 hours. Plant seeds just barely below the surface in a seeding tray in well-drained soil that is about one-third sand. It’s best to start seeds in spring or summer. Place tray in a warm, partially shady location, and water regularly until all seeds germinate. You should see sprouts in two to six weeks. Monitor seedlings closely for any signs of fungus. Treat fungal infections with a light dose of fungicide. Move seedlings into individual pots when they are 2 inches high. For best growth, add well-rotted compost and bone meal to each pot. You can keep the tree in a container for several years until it outgrows the pot. Plant them outdoors in well-drained soil in a site that has plenty of room. They can grow to a height of 70 feet with trunks that measure up to 40 feet in diameter.
The massive, often hollow trunks have been put to use in a variety of creative ways over the years. They’ve been transformed into pubs, prisons, toilets and even houses. They’ve also been used as water sources. Travelers in ancient Africa quenched their thirst by drinking water caught in the hollows of the large branches. The trunks have also been used as water reservoirs. Large baobab trunks hold up to 30,000 gallons of water. Even the roots can be tapped for water. In its native African habitat, locals cook the leaves as a vegetable or dry them for later use. Young sprouts are also edible. The seeds can be roasted and used to make a coffee-like beverage. The fibrous bark is used to make ropes, nets, fishing line, sacks and even clothing. Although the bark is frequently removed by people and elephants in its home range, the baobab, unlike most trees, has the ability to produce a new layer of bark and keep on growing.