Germinating and Growing

Common African Indigenous Trees

 

 

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African Baobab

Adansonia digitata
 

 

1/ Seed can be collected from picked or fallen fruit. After crushing the hard woody shell of the fruit, the seeds can be extracted from the dry acidic pulp. The seeds are kidney-shaped, with a smooth, dark brown to blackish seed coat. It should be soaked in hot water overnight and planted in a soil mixture of washed river sand and compost (5:1). Plant the seed no deeper than 10 mm. Seedlings have flattened hypocotyls and the first leaves are petiolate (with a leaf stalk), generally simple and narrowly linear. Seed sown during the summer months is likely to germinate within two weeks. The germination rate is usually 90-100%. Seedlings can be transplanted when they are 60 mm tall. Weaning of the plants is critical before planting them out into the full sun. The growth rate is moderate to fast (500800 mm) per year, especially for the first 5 years. Areas where the baobab can be grown are restricted to those with not more than 1 day frost per year. This is a protected tree in southern Africa.

 

 

2/ Baobabs are quite easily grown from seed although they are seldom available in nurseries. Seed can be collected from dry fruits by cracking the fruit open and washing away the dry, powdery coating. The dark brown to black, kidney-shaped seeds should be soaked in a container of hot water and allowed to cool, they may then be sown after soaking for 24 hrs. Seeds are best sown in spring and summer in a well-drained seedling mixture containing one-third sand.

Cover the seed with sand to a depth of 4-6 mm, place the trays in a warm semi-shaded position and water regularly until the seeds have all germinated. Germination may take from two to six weeks. Seedlings should be carefully monitored for damping off fungus, which can be treated with a fungicidal drench.

Transplant the seedlings once they are 50 mm high into individual containers, preferably in a sandy soil with some well-rotted compost and bone meal. Baobabs grow reasonably quickly when they are young.

They will make a handsome addition to a large garden, estate, or large parkland providing the soil is not waterlogged. Baobabs cannot tolerate even mild frost.

When they are young, baobabs do not resemble their adult counterparts, the stems are thin and inconspicuous, and their leaves are simple and not divided into the five to seven lobes of the adult trees.

Saplings can be effectively grown in containers or tubs for many years before becoming too large and requiring to be planted into the ground. In this manner one can move them out of the cold into a warm position in a glasshouse or indoors behind a sunny window to prevent frost damage.

 


 

3/ Seeds germinate well in a nursery where sufficient water can be provided. In nature they germinate only in very good rainy seasons. The seeds keep their vitality for years. Hard tests (seed coats) should be broached by being filed an immersed in hot water. Young trees soon develop a distended underground organ for storing water from which the tap and side roots emerge. Seedlings should be transplanted  only after water-storing bulbs have been developed and when they are leafless. The tree prefers well-drained soils and is sensitive to too much water and cold weather. Truncheons, so far, have been unsuccessful.

 

 

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This web page was last updated on: 07 August, 2012