Plant Profile : The Boab Tree

Post Number: 232

The Majestic Boab Name: Boab

Scientific Classification: Adansonia Gregorii

Alternative Names: Australian baobab, bottle tree, dead rat tree, gouty stem tree   The Boab has become the symbol of the Kimberley due to its unique and interesting shape.  It is a hardy, bulbous tree with silver grey bark that grows best in sandy soil and can live for hundreds of years.  During the Wet Season, they blossom with large white flowers that attract fruit bats, and during the Dry Season, they lose their leaves and leave behind massive nuts.   These nuts are either oval or round in shape and contain edible flesh and seeds that can be eaten raw or cooked by putting the whole nut into the fire.  They are a good source of vitamin C and protein and can be packed for long distance travel because if you don’t open the nut, the seeds will keep, so they’re a little like a food time capsule.  You can also carve the outside of the nut and made a pretty ornament.  The flesh of the tree trunk holds a lot of water so if you’re desperate for a drink, cut a piece off and chew it to get the moisture out.


The Kimberley 2013-05-25 003


The Australian boab is related to the ones that comes from Madagascar, India and South Africa, and possibly made it to Australia via the trading routes from Madagascar and South Africa to Indonesia.  The seamen may have stocked up on the boab nut and if they crashed their ship, the nuts could have floated their way down to the Kimberley coastline.  In 1837, when George Grey first started exploring the Kimberley, he saw the Boab and thought that the odd-shaped trees were diseased.  Another theory is that boab trees have survived on the Australian continent from when it was connected to Africa around 65 million years ago.


Dreamtime Story

Back in the day, the boab was seen as such a proud and arrogant tree that the Dreamtime spirits said, “We’ll fix you!”   The spirits pulled the boab out of the ground and stuck it back into the earth upside down!  The twisted branches you see are actually the twisted roots, and the kooky thing is that the story that the natives in Madagascar tell about their baobab tree is quite similar.


Our Encounter

Apart from the logo on our camping chairs, we didn’t spot a boab tree until we were near Broome.  You can’t truly appreciate these bizarre, twisted trees until you’ve actually see a few of them in person.


They’re scattered all over the northern parts of WA and NT and some of them are huge!   Some of the more famous boabs to check out are the Boab Prison Tree (one near Derby, one near Wyndham), the Gregory Tree near Timber Creek, and the ‘biggest boab in captivity’ that is located at the caravan park in Wyndham.  We even heard about a ‘tapped’ boab tree somewhere near El Questro – turn the tap and water comes out!   We’ve both come to love the silhouette of these majestic trees, with their warped branches and fat bellies.  We’ve also both tried our hand at some boab nut carving – it’s more difficult and time consuming than we thought!


Disclaimer: We are not bush tucker experts!  We have a bush tucker guide and we will only eat wild berries and such once we are 100% confident that it’s safe.  We must stress that you should not eat anything until you are also 100% confident and educated that it is safe and non-toxic.


One thought on Plant Profile : The Boab Tree

  1. Dougie on said:

    I am glad the boab tree has relatives in India

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