Baobab Tree

On a garden tour, I stopped the tram near the Baobab tree to explain that in Africa it is known as the “Tree of Life.” My littlest passenger knew the tree from The Lion King. She hopped off the tram and ran to it. Ignoring her parents’ pleas to come back, she faced the Baobab and began to sing in a high pitched voice the “Circle of Life” from that production.

“From the day we arrive on the planet. And blinking, step into the sun, there’s more to see than can ever be seen. More to do than can ever be done.”

In 1996, Evelyn Bartlett ceremoniously planted our little tree in the desert garden. At twenty feet high with a slender trunk, it does not project the Baobab legacy of longevity and size: some trees have been estimated to be up to 4000 years old with girths up to 150 feet. With age, though still alive, the trunk cracks open, exposing a hollow center that can be used for storage and homes for creatures great and small.

“There’s far too much to take in here. More to find than can ever be found. 

But the sun rolling high through the sapphire sky keeps great and small on the endless round. It’s the Circle of Life.”

Universally, there are nine species of Baobab with Madagascar Island home to six. They are found from eastern Africa through Saudi Arabia to India with another species in north-west Australia. Recently, die-offs have been attributed to the Baobab’s lifespan combined with excessive drought and increasing habitat changes.

“And it moves us all through despair and hope. Through faith and love till we find our place on the path unwinding. In the Circle, the Circle of Life.”

The Baobab thrives in arid areas, savannahs, and ocean-side deserts. Sparse rains, stored in its expansive trunk, makes its wood pulpy and moist. When confronted with drought, elephants will tear the trees apart to get to the watery pulp. In the barren deserts, the football size fruit is also a rich source of vitamin C. Interestingly, the ancient trade routes from Africa to India were rediscovered because the traders ate the fruit, spat out the seeds and now mature Baobabs line that trail. 

“And it moves us all through despair and hope,

Through faith and love till we find our place.” 

In Africa, the Baobab tree is considered a sacred tree. Rather than bury family members in arid ground, where night creatures easily dig them up, individuals are placed inside the tree where the interior cocoons their loved one. The Baobab tree truly gives shade, food, and comfort for those that live in its grace.

“On the path unwinding in the Circle. The Circle of Life.”

This article is dedicated to our Bonnet House friends and volunteers 

that have completed their Circle of Life.

Songwriters: Elton John / Tim Rice

Circle of Life lyrics © Walt Disney Music Company

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