The nine baobab tree species (Adansonia spp.) Grow in low-lying, arid regions of Africa, Madagascar or Australia. The deciduous trees can become massive, with the larger species reaching 80 feet in height and 40 feet in back width. A baobab is sometimes referred to as the “upside down tree” because when bare, its crown looks like a root system. Although baobabs’ smooth bark does not enable the trees’ ages to be discerned by counting rings in their trunks, carbon dating has put some specimens at over 1,000 years old. The trees’ blossoms are pollinated by bats, insects and mouse lemurs, based on in which the trees grow.
All baobab trees have flowers which open during the night and fall within a day. The species commonly known as African baobab (Adansonia digitata) contains big, white flowers which can reach 5 inches in diameter. Each blossom’s around, thick petals surround a mass of purplish stamens. African baobab is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10b through 11. The six baobab species in Madagascar have flowers which range in color from white to yellow and orange, and the blooms are usually smaller than those of African baobab. Two species in Madagascar have pendulous blossoms while four have flowers with long, cylindrical petals. All species from the Adansonia genus sport blossoms which have copious quantities of nectar and strong aromas.
Pollination of African Baobab
Many species of fruit bats are the main pollinators of African baobab. The large blooms are well-suited to bat pollination since they are big enough to support a bat while it laps nectar. The flowers grow on long stalks at the end of branches, where bats can reach them easily. Since few blossoms are open at one time, bats must move from tree to tree, which promotes cross-pollination.
Pollination of Madagascar Baobabs
Madagascar baobabs are pollinated mainly by mouse lemurs and hawk moths. Mouse lemurs, which will be the world’s smallest primates, emerge after hibernation to feast on the nectar of baobab trees’ flowers. Hawk moths feed the baobabs’ nectar, also, and spread the trees’ pollen. The mouse lemurs, however, catch and consume feeding moths.
Pollination of Baobab Down Under
Australian bottle tree (Adansonia gregorii) is the single species of baobab native to Australia. It is quite much like African baobab genetically, but its flowers are very long and cylindrical rather than around and pendulous. Although bats visit Australian bottle tree and feed its flowers’ nectar, hawk moths would be the tree’s main pollinators. The cylindrical shape of the blossoms are more suited to moths and other insects than to bats. Australian bottle tree is hardy in USDA zone 11.