Za (Adansonia za) Occurring in the south, west, and northwest, this species—Madagascar’s most widespread baobab—forms whole forests, with thousands of ungainly bottle-shaped trees making perhaps the eeriest habitat to be seen anywhere. The seeds are eaten and the trunk is sometimes hollowed out as a cistern. This very big tree reaches 30m in height, with a trunk that is cylindrical, slightly tapering, or swollen. The primary branches, often tapering, ascend properly toward the heavens.

Renala (Adansonia grandidieri) The most statuesque baobab of all, this flat-topped species has been called “a pure gem.” It has an otherworldly look and is often represented on the cover of books on Madagascar. The fruits are eaten and the seed kernels are so lipid rich they were once exported to France for processing into cooking oil. Nowadays both fruits and seeds are used only locally and on a small scale. Known locally as renala or reniala (Mother of the Forest), it is widely honored as the dwelling place of spirits. Offerings are placed at its base to ensure fertility, fine harvests, and good fortune. Famous groves occur in the western part of Madagascar, near Morombe and Morondava.

Bozy28 (Adansonia suarezensis). This species is restricted to a tiny area near Antsiranana (Diego Suarez) on Madagascar’s northern tip. Indeed, its distribution is limited enough to threaten extinction. Given current trends, according to some observers, it is likely to survive only another decade or two. Yet this is a tree with tasty fruits and large edible seeds, which apparently have the highest oil content (46 percent) of any baobab seed. Modest efforts might rescue this species from extinction and also turn it to great benefit. The tree itself is large, up to 25m tall and 2m across. The trunk typically tapers gently from bottom to top and the crown is flat, with branches radiating horizontally.


The name is used for all northern Malagasy baobabs, but primarily this species.

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