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The magical power of baobab tree in the Savannah

The magical power of baobab tree in the Savannah

Baobab is the common name for each of the nine species but the African baobab, is the most widespread tree species of the genus Adansonia,

African baobabs are trees that often grow as solitary individuals, and are large and distinctive elements of savannah or scrubland vegetation. They grow from 5 to 25 meters. The trunk is typically very broad and fluted or cylindrical, often with a buttressed, spreading base. Different researches indicate their trunks may reach a diameter of 10 to 14 meters and may be made up of multiple stems fused around a hollow core.

The African Baobab is associated with tropical savannahs, it is found in drier climates, is sensitive to water logging and frost and is not found in areas where sand is deep. It is native to mainland Africa, between the latitudes 16° N and 26° S.

All baobabs are deciduous, losing their leaves in the dry season, and remaining leafless for about eight months of the year. The African Baobab is largely found in savannah habitats, which tend to be fire-prone. Adaptations to survive frequent fires include a thick and fire-resistant bark and thick-shelled fruit.

Trees older than about 15 years have thick enough bark to withstand the heat of most savannah fires, while younger trees can grow again after going through a bush fire, the thick outer shell of the fruit may serve to protect the seeds.

In different parts of Africa different people believe the baobabs are upright and too proud of themselves, and it is their magical strength which give these trees strength to attract and harbor different spirits which are attracted by white flowers.

Superstitions that go with a baobab tree and owls leaves one wondering whether someone can sit under the tree or sleep at night after hearing hooting of an owl.

These Superstitions are worldwide. I do not find anything wrong about them, but what bothers me is about the totally negative implications towards this tree and bird.

One Superstitions I mostly hear about an owl is that, when it cries at night behind or on the roof of a certain house, a person must die in that house that day. For me this is like a fairytale because I have not proved the reality of such a belief.

Owls have a strange and unusual place in human history. Just consider the many superstitions surrounding them. The Scottish thought it bad luck to see an owl during the day while the Romans too this belief on step further.

An owl seen during day time was usually caught, burned and its ashes scattered in the Tiber River. A common superstition is that a hooting owl signifies death. The hunting calls and other habits of nearly all owl species gave rise to an association with evil and witchcraft.

In fact, a baobab tree has a negative connotation to many; the main claim being related to wizards and witchcraft. In this case baobab tree are considered harmful in one way or another, as different people describes the dangers of it in many ways. Some say that these trees can talk at night; again I have no concrete proof about these claims.

However, I have come to believe that witches mentioned much in those substations are the very people that are associated with these creatures in their activities. But my question is, doesn’t witchdoctors use chickens and goat too as very common animals in their activities.

How come then we enjoy eating these animals? Is it because it is not common to eat an owl or baobab leaves that is why we concentrate only on chicken and goats?

In fact, an owl is a unique beautiful bird. Owls are different from other bird because they eat rabbits, skunks, rats, snakes, lizards and fish. When owls eat they sometimes tear and swallow.

They eat by tearing and ripping with their beaks and claws. Some owls prey on birds. Owls hunt at night and their sense of hearing is very good. One cannot hear owls when they are hunting at night because of their feathers. Owls spit out the food in pellets which have bones.

Owls live in places like caves, tree holes, trunks, old buildings, farms, barns, forests, and cactus trees. Owls are of different types. Those which live in barns are called barn owls, and owls called the snow owls live in the snow.

Great horned owls live in very old trees. Where it is very dark. Owls like to hang around buildings sometimes and maybe these characters contribute also for the bard connotation it has to many.

Owls live long life but a barn owls appear to have many advantages as they may live ten years or more. They potentially produce many young’s in a nesting season and it has demonstrated a fair amount of tolerance for people and their activities as the barn owls serve as indicators of the vigour of the grassland ecosystem.

According to reports, scientists who helped create the 1994 northwest forest plan (NWFP) in America expected that the owl’s numbers would decline for several years and the rebound once the region’s forests developed the old-growth characteristics, that owls are believed to prefer, which would enable the forests to support large populations.

Some environmentalists contend, however, that if the owl’s decline is occurring faster than scientists initially assumed, action to protect the species has to happen sooner rather than later.

On baobab trees, they have a character of surviving that is they can cope in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid tropical climates. The secret of the baobab’s success in tolerating in harsh environments and the reason for its massive trunk is that it has little wood fibre but a large water storage capacity.

Each tree can hold up to 300 liters of water, enabling it to live through long periods without rain. It is a long-lived, fast growing tree.

Baobab is the name used in France in the encyclopedia by didewrot and d'Alembert, published in 1751, after Michel Adanson had brought back samples and a description from a stay in Saint-Louis of sensgal in attention.

It was a tree bearing gourd like fruit, also called monkey's bread, which the wolofs called ''Goui'' in their own language probably the most useful tree in all Africa the universal tree for Negroes.

The communication officer and a forester at the ministry of natural resources and tourism, one scientists says, one of the advantage of baobab tree is that the baobab tree can survive in arid areas for a very long time.

Fruits of baobab tree can be used to provide vitamins as it can be used like other green vegetation’s. Baobab fruit seeds are very nutritious but it is strange that it is only children who enjoy these fruit seeds more than other groups of people.

These children, however eat these fruits only on the streets and not at home during dinner or lunch time as they eat other fruits.

Baobab is not grown commercially in large plantations but tends to be planted as an isolated tree landmark near homestead settlements for its produce and because of superstitions and traditional folklore that surround the tree. It is also planted in small orchards.

The baobab’s bark, leaves, fruit seeds and trunk are all used. The bark of the baobab is used for cloth and rope, the leaves for condiments and medicine, while the fruit, called “monkey bread “, has its seeds eaten. Sometimes people live inside of huge trunks, and bush-babies live in the crown.

The baobab tree is well known for its fruits whose seeds are rich in vitamins C, B1 and B2 and phosphorous, iron, trace minerals and protein. The leaves are rich in carotene and contain a significant amount of amino acids and several trace elements.

Tender leaves are rich in vitamin A, the tree is easy and cheap to cultivate and free from any serious pests and diseases. It is usually left to grow until it dies naturally, as many traditional beliefs exist which dissuade felling it.

In Dar es salaam this belief has its roots from the time when the city was just a fishing village. It is as much wall as tree, and people remove their shoes before kneeling in front of it, their eyes closed, their backs to the Indian Ocean, and their money in the pocket of the witch doctor who invariably brings them to this enchanted confluence of sea, earth and commerce.

“This place is like a mosque” said one man who was standing barefoot in the lengthening shadow of the great tree on Kenyatta Drive. The light was fading, and business was picking up, a man and his wife all traditional healers, passed a coconut around the head of a client who was kneeling.

The coconut went around the man’s left arm, then the right, then each leg. When she handed the coconut to the client, the man, then hurled it onto a stone. It shattered, releasing his problems to the winds.

In another account a man said “Today, myself, I have some evil spirits that are making me ill,” he explained. “So I came here.” Here is known as “the magic corner,” a strip of land between the turquoise sea and row of luxurious white villas north of downtown Dar es Salaam.

Roald Dahl, author of “James and the giant peach,” spent a couple of years in the house directly across the street in the late 1930s when he worked for Shell Oil. An astonishingly large baobab dominates that lot, but it is not as close to the sea as the one visited by at least 10 traditional healers and their clients every day.

Nominally, Africa is a continent of Christians and Muslims but Arab traders did not introduce Islam until the 10th century, and Christian missionaries had little success spreading their message until the end of the 19th century. Neither faith has quite managed to overcome the spiritual connections fashioned in the previous 130,000 years.

“I am a Christian. My family is Christian,” said one man who is a witch doctor or “traditional healer” who led three young women to the tree one recent afternoon. “But this comes from the tribe. The spirits forced me to do this business. They make me sick. I was too thin, after working for this job, I got fat.”

He wore polished leather shoes and a dress shirt and carried a fountain pen that matched his burgundy slacks. He said that as he arrived with along with three women who were each seeking help finding a good man.

It is believed that each had paid the doctor a good amount of money before seating around the tree in hopes of correcting their situation.

The strength of the baobab can be expressed by scraps bear wishes some for relief, others for revenge all expecting to get assistance from the spirits.

Other tokens are more cryptic. Feathers stuffed in a seashell and left on the ground. A broken clay pot containing ashes and rushes razor blades. The dried carcass of a puffer fish dangling from a high branch, a scrap of paper in its mouth.

The baobab’s core, which hollows as the tree ages, provides a burial ground for griots, the tribal praise singers and court jesters whose remains are suspended inside, “because they were neither fit for heaven nor hell,” on bystander said.

But in the lusher sections of East Africa, where other plants provide readier food, the baobab is valued chiefly for its fabulous size. The trees grow so large that one East Africa’s highway map includes the biggest along main roads.

To local people, great size is naturally associated with great age, those who believe that spirits inhabit specific places see the baobab as a reservoir of forces surpassed only by the ocean. “We believe that those spirits are in the tree from a long, long time ago,” said one man who calls himself an apprentice healer.

In the Savannah the fruit, bark, roots and leaves of the tree are a key food source for many animals and the trees themselves are an important source of shade and shelter.

You might be bright, but a brighter fellow exists

DEAR nephew Milambo Greetings from this confused ...

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Author: Reginald Stanislaus Matillya

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