“Tree of life” facing an outbreak of deaths
Thursday June 14, 2018. 05:42 PM , from Ars Technica
Enlarge (credit: Peace Corps)
Baobabs have super-thick trunks and branches that look like root systems reaching for the sky. African bushmen said that when the god Thora created the world, he took a dislike to the baobab growing in his garden so he threw it out over the wall of paradise onto Earth below; it landed upside down and continued to grow that way. Others claim that Thora had to uproot the trees and replant them upside-down, because when they were initially planted the right way, they kept on walking. Tribal elders and kings used to hold meetings under baobab trees since they believed that the tree's spirits would guide them in decision-making.
On a more practical level, the baobab is known as the Tree of Life because it can store water in its enormous trunk during the rainy season and bear fruit later in the dry season, when other food is scarce. But associating them with life may be temporary; the oldest and largest among these trees are dying.
Baobabs periodically produce new stems the way other trees make branches, which is why they appear so thick. They start off with one stem and grow additional ones in a ring shape. Sometimes, the multiple stems are obvious, when they are only fused at their bases and each grows outwards like an inverted cone. But sometimes the stems fuse to look like one giant circular trunk, with a hollow cavity inside that can be used as a shelter, for grain storage, as a water reservoir, or even for a burial site. Or a bar.
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