Scientists have recently revealed an unsettling news - some of the world's oldest, largest baobab trees are dying at an alarming rate over the past 12 years.
According to a report in the journal Nature Plants, no one has been able to figure out the reason behind the falling of these gigantic trees, but scientists suspect climate change to be the culprit.
"It is very surprising to visit monumental baobabs, with ages greater than a thousand to two thousand years, which seem to be in a good state of health, and to find them after several years fallen to the ground and dead...Statistically, it is practically impossible that such a high number of large old baobabs die in such a short time frame due to natural causes," says study coauthor Adrian Patrut of Romania's Babes-Bolyai University, according to National Geographic.
Baobabs have a characteristic trunk with a massive girth and only branch at a particular height from the ground. Often seen towering over other plants around, baobabs are somewhat of a tourist attraction in the region.
Here are some lesser-known facts about the baobabs:
- The most distinct characteristic is the swollen trunk. When young, baobab is single-stemmed. However, as it grows older, the roots give rise to several more stems in a ring. These stems then eventually fuse to form a cavity.
- These cavities which form the signature trunk are so large that people have built pubs, churches, and even prisons within.
- Baobab trees act as water reservoirs. The massive trunk acts as a storage for rainwater and often serve as a valuable source for the wild animals around. According to afktravel.com, one such reservoir was recorded as holding 4,546 liters of water.
- Many people believe that plant actually grows upside down. This is mainly because of the appearance of the plant - a long stem with short thick branches resembling roots. African mythology suggests that God planted them upside down.
- It is also said that the intertwined baobab trees in Madagascar symbolise a couple from different villages who fell in love against the wishes of their elders. These trees are said to hugging each other for centuries just like the couple always wanted to be.
- Baobabs are also used for oil and its fruits called monkey bread. The fruits are said to contain more vitamin C than oranges and kiwis. Also, baobab powder, which comes from the dehydrated pulp of the fruit is considered as a superfood.