Boab – Adansonia gregorii
Other Names: gourd-gourd tree, gouty stem, sour gourd, bottletree, bodgurri (Wunambal Gaambera), larrgardi/larrkarti (Bunaban), gadawori (Miriuwung), jumulu (Kwini), muruwan (Nungali). The tree is called 'Boab', as opposed to 'Baobab', like its African cousins.
Distinctive Characteristics: The iconic, deciduous Boab is easily identified by its bottle-shaped trunk, and as they age, a barrel shape. Branches are concentrated at the top. Boabs store water in the fibrous tissue of their trunk. The smooth grey bark is easily scarred and pock-marked.
Distribution: Native to northwestern Australia, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, from Broome eastward to the Fitzmaurice River region in the Northern Territory. Elevation: sea level to 1,000 ft. (300 m).
Ecosystem: Usually grows alone in open woodlands and grasslands, but also found in monsoon forests, thriving along creeks and drainage channels. Sometimes found with Bloodwood.
Maximum Age: Over 500 years. Like all species of Baobab, its indeterminate rings and hollowing make accurately dating the tree impossible. They appear deceptively older than they are because they hold water. This species does not attain the age of its African cousins, Adansonia digitata.
Maximum Height and Girth: 50 ft. (15 m) in height; 55 ft. (17 m) in circumference. This species does not attain the size of its African cousins, Adansonia digitata.
Animal Community: Rock wallabies and kangaroos feed on the fruit and disperse the seeds. Scaly-tailed possums feed on the leaves, flowers, and fruits. Flying foxes and fruit bats, who roost in the branches, eat the flowers and pods. Several widespread species of birds have been observed either eating, resting, or nesting in Boabs, including crows, black kites, magpie-larks, grey-crowned warblers, kestrels, fork-tailed kites, zebra finches, white-faced herons, black-breasted buzzards, honey-eaters, corellas, owls, and owlet-nightjars. Reptiles such as goannas, geckos, skinks, and green tree frogs may also use the tree as habitat.
Medicine: The bark was used as an antiperiodic and antipyretic. The flowers were used as a fever reducer. The pulp was used as an anti-acid, to treat nausea, and given to mothers of newborns. The green leaves were laid on the fire as a mosquito repellent. Sickly children's bellies would be rubbed up against the trunk for healing.
Food: The gourd-like fruit pods contain an edible, lemony dry pulp that can be chewed alone, mixed with water and sweetener as a drink, mixed with edible gum from other plants, or may be cooked into custard or a kind of bread. The edible seeds were eaten raw, ground up, or roasted on hot coals. Young plants have a large edible tuberish taproot. The leaves were eaten. Mucilage exuding from damaged wood was eaten or made into a drink, as well as the flowers, either fresh or fermented.
Fiber: The bark was made into cordage, cylindrical beehives, and carrying cradles.
Tools and Objects: The gourd-like seedpods were hollowed out and used as containers. Stored rainwater from the hollows was tapped for emergencies. The gum and pollen were used to make glue. Scoops for gathering and eating honey out of hives (mops) were made out of masses of the fiberous roots.
Art and Ceremony: The soft, thick bark of the trunks has been carved with zoomorphic, anthropomorphic, geometric, and symbolic imagery (dendroglyphs), and painted with mineral paints. The gourd-like seedpods may have been used as musical rattles for ceremony. The pods were decoratively carved, although this use may not be traditional. String made from bark was tied together to make crosses for dance ceremonies. The staminal tube from the flower was used as a paintbrush to apply body paint.
Shelter: Two famous "prison" boab trees are said to have been used to keep aboriginals in confinement for short periods of time. They are also said to have served as a temporary dwelling, store and post office.
Threats and Conservation: Not threatened.