Prota 14: Vegetable oils/Oléagineux
Bull. Mens. Soc. Linn. Paris 2: 844 (1890).
Bombacaceae (APG: Malvaceae)
2n = 48, 88
Adansonia alba Jum. & H.Perrier (1909), Adansonia bozy Jum. & H.Perrier (1910).
Za baobab, baobab (En). Baobab de Madagascar (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Adansonia za is endemic to Madagascar, where it occurs throughout the northern, western and southern parts.
The fruit pulp and oil-rich seeds are eaten, as well as the seedling roots. The fruit pulp has a pleasant acidic taste. Moist wood from newly felled trees is fed to cattle in times of scarcity. The trunk is sometimes hollowed out to make a cistern for storing water. The bark fibre is used for making cloth and cordage. The flowers are used in medicine to treat a sore throat.
Seeds contain 11% oil. The fatty acid composition of the oil is: palmitic acid 27%, stearic acid 3%, oleic acid 30%, linoleic acid 23%. The oil also contains the rare fatty acids malvalic acid 7%, sterculic acid 8% and dihydrosterculic acid 2%.
Deciduous, medium-sized tree up to 30 m tall; bole cylindrical or slightly tapering with irregular swellings, up to 3 m in diameter; outer bark more or less smooth, grey; crown rounded; main branches often tapering and ascending. Leaves arranged spirally, palmately compound with 5–8 leaflets; stipules caducous; petiole 5–15 cm long; petiolules 0–3 cm long; leaflets broadly elliptical to lanceolate, medial ones up to 20 cm × 8 cm, margins entire, glabrous or sometimes rough, with 10–20(–many) pairs of lateral veins. Flowers solitary in leaf axils at end of branches, bisexual, regular, 5-merous, large, showy, fragrant; flower bud erect to horizontal, elongated to cylindrical, 15–24 cm × 1.5–2.5 cm; pedicel 2–3 cm long, jointed, green; calyx tubular, tube fitting tightly around the petal bases, with a marked annular swelling at base, c. 2 mm wide, lobes linear, 15–22 cm × 10–12 mm, reflexed and twisted, green and rough outside, dark red and hairy inside; petals free, linear, 14–24 cm × 1–1.5 cm, twisted, yellow; stamens numerous, fused at base into a cylindrical or tapering tube 4–6.5 cm long; ovary superior, conical to ovoid, densely hairy, style 16–22 cm long, dark red, glabrous densely hairy at base, usually fitting loosely in staminal tube and persistent in fruit, stigma 3–5 mm in diameter, irregularly lobed, red. Fruit an oblong to ovoid or globose berry 10–30 cm × 6–15 cm, with thick, woody, fibrous wall, ridged, blackish, many-seeded. Seeds kidney-shaped, laterally flattened, up to 12 mm × 11 mm × 8 mm; seedcoat hard. Seedling with hypogeal germination; first leaf simple, later leaves gradually becoming 3-foliolate and palmately compound.
Other botanical information
Adansonia comprises 8 species, of which 6 are endemic to Madagascar, 1 occurs in continental Africa and is introduced in Madagascar, and 1 is endemic to Australia. Adansonia za is very similar to Adansonia madagascariensis Baill. and these two species cannot always be clearly distinguished. The latter is characterized by its usually red petals, non-persisting style and broader fruit. It is restricted to northern and north-western Madagascar, where the fruits are rarely used as food. The swollen roots of seedlings are eaten more commonly. Adansonia perrieri Capuron is another species of northern Madagascar, where it is rare and endangered. Its fruit pulp is edible.
Within Adansonia za there is some variation between the south and the north of the distribution range; southern specimens have distinctly stalked leaflets and fruits with swollen peduncles, whereas towards the north the leaflets become sessile and larger, and the peduncles not swollen.
Growth and development
Trees produce new leaves during the dry season and are in leaf throughout the wet season. They use water stored in the trunk to support new leaf growth and cuticular transpiration, but stomata remain closed until the rainy season. Trees flower in the early wet season from November to February, somewhat earlier in the north than in the south. Pollination is probably by Coelonia hawkmoths. Fruit ripens at the end of the dry season.
Adansonia za occurs in dry deciduous and spiny forest, savanna and scrubland up to 800 m altitude. It is a dominant species in some deciduous forests in southern Madagascar, but is less abundant in the northwest, where it is concentrated near rivers. On sandy soil or on limestone outcrops its growth becomes stunted.
Propagation and planting
The germination rate of the seed is low, often not more than 10%. Mechanical scarification is needed to break seed dormancy caused by the hard seedcoat that is impermeable to water. Storage behaviour of the seed is orthodox.
Although the genetic health of Adansonia za may be secure because of its extensive geographical range, poor regeneration could threaten its longer-term survival. The species appears on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a ‘near threatened’ species that is close to being classified as ‘vulnerable’ in the wild. The main threats come from forest clearance and poor natural regeneration.
Adansonia za is likely to remain of limited use, although the seedling roots may become popular as a food, as has been suggested for the young roots of the Australian Adansonia gibbosa (A.Cunn.) Guymer ex D.A.Baum.
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• Baum, D.A., 1995. The comparative pollination and floral biology of baobabs (Adansonia - Bombacaceae). Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 82(2): 322–348.
• Baum, D.A., 1996. The ecology and conservation of the baobabs of Madagascar. In: Ganzhorn, J.U. & Sorg, J.-P. (Editors). Ecology and economy of a tropical dry forest in Madagascar. Primate Report. Special Issue 46: 311–328.
• Baum, D.A. & Oginuma, K., 1994. A review of chromosome numbers in Bombacaceae with new counts for Adansonia. Taxon 43(1): 11–20.
• Bianchini, J.-P., Ralaimanarivo, A., Gaydou, E.M. & Waegell, B., 1982. Hydrocarbons, sterols and tocopherols in the seeds of six Adansonia species. Phytochemistry 21(8): 1981–1987.
• Chapotin, S.-M., Razanameharizaka, J.H. & Holbrook, N.M., 2006. Baobab trees (Adansonia) in Madagascar use stored water to flush new leaves but not to support stomatal opening before the rainy season. New Phytologist 169: 549–559.
• Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1953. Les Adansonia de Madagascar et leur utilisation. 2ième note. Revue Internationale de Botanique Appliquée et d’Agriculture Tropicale 33: 241–244.
• Ralaimanarivo, A., Gaydou, E.M. & Bianchini, J.-P., 1982. Fatty acid composition of seed oils from six Adansonia species with particular reference to cyclopropane and cyclopropene acids. Lipids 17: 1–10.
• Bihrmann, undated. Caudiciforms: Adansonia za. [Internet] http://www.bihrmann.com/ caudiciforms/subs/ ada-za-sub.asp. Accessed September 2006.
• Du Puy, B., 1996. Faunal interactions with genus Adansonia in the Kirindy Forest. In: Ganzhorn, J.U., & Sorg, J.-P. (Editors). Ecology and Economy of a Tropical Dry Forest in Madagascar. Primate Report. Special Issue 46: 329–334.
• Jumelle, H. & Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1909. Nouvelles observations sur les baobabs de Madagascar. Matières Grasses 1909: 1509–1512.
• Jumelle, H. & Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1910. Fragments biologiques de la flore de Madagascar. Annales du Musée Colonial de Marseille 2e Série 8: 447–451.
• Miège, J., 1974. Etude du genre Adansonia 2: Caryologie et blastogenèse. Candollea 29: 457–475.
• Neuwinger, H.D., 2000. African traditional medicine: a dictionary of plant use and applications. Medpharm Scientific, Stuttgart, Germany. 589 pp.
• Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1952. Adansonia de Madagascar. Clef et diagnoses. Notulae Systematicae (Paris) 14: 300–304.
• Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1952. Sur les utilités de l’Adansonia grandidieri et les possibilitées de culture. Revue Internationale de Botanique Appliquée et d’Agriculture Tropicale 32: 286–288.
• Razanameharizaka, J., Grouzis, M., Ravelomanana, D. & Danthu, P., 2006. Seed storage behaviour and seed germination in African and Malagasy baobabs (Adansonia species). Seed Science Research 16(1): 83–88.
• Wickens, G.E., 1982. The Baobab: Africa’s upside-down tree. Kew Bulletin 37(2): 173–209.
Sources of illustration
• Baillon, M.H., 1889. Histoire naturelle des plantes. In: Grandidier, A. (Editor). Histoire Physique, Naturelle et Politique de Madagascar. Imprimerie Nationale, Paris, France. Pl. 79A–I.
• Hochreutiner, B.P.G. & Perrier de la Bâthie, H., 1955. Bombacacées (Bombacaceae). Flore de Madagascar et des Comores (plantes vasculaires), familles 129–130. Firmin-Didot et cie., Paris, France. 21 pp.
Correct citation of this article:
Ambrose-Oji, B. & Mughogho, N., 2007. Adansonia za Baill. In: van der Vossen, H.A.M. & Mkamilo, G.S. (Editors). PROTA 14: Vegetable oils/Oléagineux. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.
1, tree habit; 2, part of branch with leaf and flower bud; 3, flower; 4, fruit in longitudinal section.
Redrawn and adapted by Achmad Satiri Nurhaman