Baobab Trees of Limpopo – Mystical

South Africa's Limpopo is well-known for the legendary Baobab trees that grow there, particularly in the Venda region near the Soutpansberg mountain range. Baobab trees have come to be steeped in legends of the Venda people who reside in the province. The gnarled bark and bulging branches of the Baobab trees truly capture the spirit of Africa, and offer an outstanding theme for photographs.

The Baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) has one of the longest life spans of Africa’s trees with some between 300 and 500 years. Towards the north east of Limpopo you will come across an exquisite Baobab said to be 3 000 years old with a base circumference of 43 m. Baobabs grow chiefly in semi-arid locations just to the north of Southpansberg. These massive trees are succulents and contain some 80% moisture.

These fascinating trees are known for more than just their unusual upside-down look, they are also extremely useful to both man and animals. Each Baobab is said to support its very own ecosystem teeming with life, providing both sustenance and shelter for a diversity of life. Birds and bees frequently make their homes in the trunk of older hollow Baobab trees in Venda, as do many other little creatures. Baboons in the area dine on the tree’s fruits whilst elephants munch on the leaves and bark for moisture and food. Bush babies and fruit bats also frequent the Soutpansberg Baobabs, playing a vital role in the pollination of the trees’ flowers. The flowers of Baobabs last for just 24 hours, dropping off and providing food for antelope on the ground. Humans have also found several uses from Baobabs. The best known is the use of the fruit with its tartaric acid flesh and white powdery pulp for used in a drink. The fibrous bark has been used for centuries for rope, baskets and mats. In recent years it has also been used for cloth, paper and ceiling boards. Even the seeds of the Baobab fruit can be used for a sort of coffee drink. The trunks of Baobabs have even served as homes for people. In Leydsdorp you can see a Baobab that was used as a fridge back during the age of the gold rush.

As previously mentioned, the Baobab tree has become the centre of many Venda legends. One legend says that the gods were in a light mood when the planted the baobab and thus planted it upside-down with the roots sticking up. Others say that God decided to plant the tree upside-down in a moment of anger. Some people believe that the 24 hour flowers are in fact haunted by spirits. Another legend states that by soaking baobab seeds in water and drinking it you will be safe from crocodiles. You too can discover the magic of the giant baobabs when visiting Venda in Limpopo.

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