The Four Stages of Baob­abs

South African Country Life - - Your Letters -

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

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