03 January 2011 by Kate Turkington

The world’s quirkiest tree?

If you go up north in South Africa - and of course you will because that’s where Kruger Park, the Big 5 and the best big game are - keep your eyes peeled for our quirkiest and probably best-loved tree - the giant baobab. (Adansonia digitata for the purists.)

The San Bushmen believe that God threw the baobab out of heaven in a rage and it consequently landed upside down. In winter, when it has no leaves, its branches look like roots sticking up out of the ground.  Another San legend has it that when all the animals were given seeds to plant by God, the hyena got it all wrong and planted his upside down.

Whatever the story, you’ll not mistake this huge, fat, strangely comforting tree which can live for thousands of years. Post offices have been built inside its hollowed-out trunk, and there was even a prison in one too.

The baobab has a unique wide cup-shaped white flower which is irresistible to fruit bats - just as well because they are the only pollinators. As the sun goes down the blossoms open and charge the evening air with perfume - just when the bats are waking up.

And it’s not just bats - the local tribes believe that the spirits gather under the trees at night, and Resa, the rain god, dwells in the upper branches.

Let me know when you spot your first baobab - you won’t mistake it…

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