Photographic artist Elaine Ling says of her pictures of Baobab trees in Africa: "These miraculous giants are one of the largest living things on the planet and have a potential lifespan of more than a thousand years. They are great friends to their human neighbours—providing an ever-renewing source of textiles, netting, baskets and roofing. Their nutritious fruit has many medicinal properties.

My photographs are reflections on the ancient, life-sustaining dialogue between these enduring mega-trees and the people—grandmothers and fathers, parents, youths and small children—who live among them. These portraits, pairing individual Baobabs with their human neighbours, document a most intimate relationship" We love the tree-gestures she captures in her pictures and we couldn't agree more…


Flower and fruit production usually only takes place once a tree is a certain size. Baobab tree growth is dependent on access to water. Where trees grow in high rainfall areas (+1000mls …per year) baobabs can reach maturity much more quickly than in arid areas. We have worked out that in Venda where rainfall is 350ml per year it can take a ‘young’ baobab 200 years before it produces its first baobab fruit ! Here is a picture of a youthful 180 year old tree. It gives you a real sense of how easily we take the resources of nature for granted without appreciating the energy and time nature puts into the creation of what we harvest.



I often get asked how old baobabs become. There is a lot of myth with most people believing that they live for up to 5000 years. I have been working with Dr Adrian Patrut, who has made it his mission to find the oldest baobab in the world. He has been at this for about 10 years, sampling trees all over Africa and publishing his results in Scientific Journals. So far the oldest tree dated was the multi-stemmed Glencoe Tree near Hoedspruit that was dated to 1800 years old.(see pic).  In Venda people often say that they live forever. I like to believe they do.

New Baobab Species – Fact or Theory?

A new species of baobab, Adansonia kilima, has recently been described for Africa by Prof. Jack Pettigrew.

This is significant because worldwide there are only eight species of baobab, six of them are in Madagascar, one is in Australia and one in Africa (Adansonia digitata). But what has always intrigued taxonomists is that the species that occur in Madagascar and Australia are diploid (having 2 chromosomes in a set) and the one in Africa is tetraploid (having 4 chromosomes in a set).

Taxonomists have said that the 'original' baobab must have been diploid and spurred by this Pettigrew felt that diploid trees must still exist in Africa. He ventured from Australia, where he lives, to the Kenyan highlands where he found a population of diploid trees. Since then he has found other populations of diploid trees and by chance it seems that this new species even occurs in our back yard in Limpopo. I headed out a few weeks ago to see the tree he described as the new species.

Dr. Sarah Venter

Interesting baobab tree roots

On my field trip a few weeks back we went into northern Venda which was very badly struck by the recent floods. Many roads were washed away and people's houses damaged. I came across this uprooted baobab. It was in a sandy area so when the floods washed around its roots it just toppled over! Notice the masses of adventitious tree roots extending horizontally out from the main tuber. Baobabs have a shallow and very wide spreading root system so that they can immediately take up the first rains of the season. Unfortunately, this one got taken out instead!

Dr Sarah Venter

Building a baobab tree

Siemens commissioned renowned South African artist, Daniel Popper to design and build the massive sculpture that was inspired by the African Baobab tree as part of the COP 17 event in 2011 which took place in Durban.

The tree stood at almost 15 meters high and was made from reclaimed wood. OSRAM was proud to light up the tree with 3,000 high-efficiency Osram LED lights that were powered by solar panels. Some of the lights could even be powered by the bicycles positioned around the tree. By sitting on one of the 17 stationary bicycles, people could help provide the energy to power the tree and the faster one pedaled, the brighter the Siemens Baobab tree shone.

The Baobab tree is an appropriate part of the official logo of the COP17 United Nations Climate Change Conference, as over the centuries its age and majestic size has made it a traditional gathering place – a place where people come together to meet and solve problems.

The tree 'site' became the unofficial broadcast point for many local/international media and news outlets with reporters using it as a backdrop for their reports and a total of 30,170 people visited the tree.

Bowen Boshier


BOWEN BOSHIER is a wilderness pencil artist and has been exhibiting since 1990. His work is in a number of private and bank collections. His originals are sold through the Everard Read Gallery, and limited edition reproductions are in selected galleries across Southern Africa.

He says: "I find that pencil is well suited to capturing contrasts and textures. It holds the expectant silence that our African wilderness contains.

I spend time on location, sometimes months in one place; walking and watching, sketching and sculpting. I am fascinated by detail so each drawing takes a long time to complete. Creatures get used to my presence and carry on their life around me. I watch birds build their nests, hear them court, witness the first flight of the fledglings."

 find out more here

London baobab tree


The bright and bold London baobab tree rises almost 46 feet high on Southbank’s waterfront. Designed by the group of artists, engineers and designers in Pirate Technics, the tree was created to represent the nations of the world that took part in this summer’s London Olympics. Rows and rows of remnant fabrics from different nations around the world made up the bark of the tree, totaling 80 different kinds in all.

The Baobab Tree was based on Africa’s oldest living specimen, which has come to symbolize community and strength. By layering fabrics from each culture next to each other, Pirate Technics is drawing a specific corollary about the global village that the world has become, showing how the textures and patterns from each culture can work together seamlessly to create something beautiful.

The tree is seated on the low river front plaza, and peaks up over 20 feet above the elevated roadway above. Aside from symbolizing unity, the recycled fabric tree was meant to act as a meeting place for members of the London community, and to inspire conversation between strangers visiting Southbank.

Over one million visitors came to the Baobab Tree sculpture last summer, effectively reaching Pirate Technic’s goal of bringing people together.

How do I measure the height of a baobab?

Have just returned from a truly inspiring research trip on Quilalea Island where I studied and reported on 56 Baobab trees. One of the many measurements I do is to measure the height of a baobab. It's a question I'm often asked: how does a short person like me manage this?  Well, I don't climb the tree with an extremely long tape measure as has been suggested!

I use a clever little device called a clinometer. I stand exactly 15m away from the tree and look up through the clinometer to the top of the tree, the clinometers calculates the height of the tree by using 1) the distance from me to the tree (15m) and 2) the angle from me to the top of the tree – its basic trigonometree!