The Four Stages of Baobabs
A few years ago in the Kruger National Park, I spotted a slender sapling, marked with its green dendrological sign ‘Adansonia digitata’. I was surprised when I realised I was looking at an infant baobab, because she certainly didn’t look like one, giving no indication of the characteristic shape she would grow into. A few years later, on revisiting Olifants Rest Camp, I wanted to check on my tree and see how much she had grown and changed. I returned to the spot and, sure enough, there she was, still a sapling but now sans her identification label. I scratched in the dry mopani leaves lying around her base for the sign, but nothing. My equally curious husband asked a passing ranger to identify our mysterious sapling and the answer was, “Cream of tartar”... the baobab.
Now, the amazing thing is, on looking at the sapling of this iconic tree, she looks like any other sapling. However, on closer inspection I did see two clues: a slight hint of the rubbery bark to come and the slightest suggestion of the swollen limbs of the future.
The day turned into a baobab adventure and, although I wasn’t botanically correct, I classified the baobabs I found at other camps as representing the various stages of unfolding womanhood. First the ‘baby’ baobab, then a ‘teenage’ baobab, a ‘newly married’ baobab and a ‘grandmother’ baobab.
I will never forget the day that my husband photographed me alongside four generations of beautiful baobabs. (edited) Sheryl Bradfield