Grandidier's Baobab – Adansonia grandidieri
Other Names: the upside-down tree, renala or reniala (mother of the forest), bontouna.
Distinctive Characteristics: These iconic trees, forming a distinctively cylindrical trunk, are the tallest of all the Baobabs. They are deciduous, have smooth reddish-grey bark, and end in a concentration of short, crown-like, stocky branches at the top. Like all Baobabs, the fibrous wood stores water, and thus the diameter of the trunk fluctuates depending on rainfall. They have white, showy flowers that only bloom for one night.
Distribution: Endemic to the southwestern coast and inland of Madagascar, between Lac Ihotry and Bereboka. Elevation: sea level to 200 ft. (60 m). Ecosystem: Once part of dense dry deciduous tropical forest, they now grow solitary or in groves.
Maximum Age: Estimated at 800 years, they do not reach the millennial age or wide girth of its mainland cousin, Adansonia digitata. They appear older than they are because they hold water. Like all species of Baobab, its indeterminate rings make accurately dating the tree impossible.
Maximum Height and Girth: 98 ft. (30 m) in height; 30.7 ft. (9.3 m) in circumference.
Animal Community: These Baobabs are an important habitat tree to a variety of invertebrates, birds, reptiles, and mammals. Red-tailed sportive lemurs and Coquerel's dwarf lemurs feed on its leaves and flowers; non-native bush pigs and rats eat the fruit. They are pollinated by nocturnal pale fork-marked lemurs and Madagascar straw-colored fruit bats. Birds, such as green sunbirds and the Souimangas sunbird, enjoy the nectar; parrots and guinea fowl eat the seeds.
Medicine: The bark, roots, leaves, fruits, and seeds have been widely used for medicinal applications for both people and animals.
Food: The large gourd-like seedpods contain a dry, sour pulp high in vitamin C that has been made into candy, porridge, or a lemony drink. The seeds have been roasted or pressed for cooking oil. The young leaves and tuberous taproots have been eaten.
Fiber: The inner bark is harvested to make very strong rope and cordage.
Art and Ceremony: The Baobab is the focus of much taboo, folklore, and spiritual reverence. Some individual trees are said to be the spiritual home of ancestors.
Threats and Conservation: This species of Baobab is listed as Endangered on the IUNC Red List. They have been put at risk by over-harvesting the bark and fruits, slash-and-burn agriculture, zebu cattle grazing, groundwater consumption, flooding and effluent from nearby rice fields, and lack of regeneration. This species is protected in the Reserve Speciale d'Andranomena, but the famous Avenue of the Baobabs—elder trees near Morondava—is not. Local organizations are working to promote conservation.