Trees are some of the oldest known living organism on the planet. Surviving on this planet for 385 million years, only a handful of organisms live longer lives, mostly sponges, coral, and bacteria. Trees have survived nearly every disaster this planet has seen and there are trees on this planet that have been alive for millennia. While the trees themselves cannot speak, the record they contain inside their bark help modern scientists understand what the world looked in ancient times. For the record the oldest living human on record was 122 years, a mere speck of time to trees like the Sunland Baobab.
Have you ever wanted to have a party inside of a tree? No, we don’t mean having a party on your reclaimed hardwood floors from Aged Woods. Well you can, or at least could have as long as your wouldn’t mind heading to South Africa. The Sunland Baobab tree near Modjadjiskloof, Limpopo Province was a popular spot for weddings and parties. The approximately 1,700 year old tree was massive, in fact it was the world’s largest baobab tree. The trunk is 10 meters in diameter with a crown diameter of 30 meters. It is 22 meters high and 47 meters total in circumference.
The tree was on the Sunland Farm, which gave it its name. In 1993 the land owners cleaned out the hollow inside of the tree with the idea of creating a party spot and tourist attraction. The debris from the inside of the tree revealed that humans had lived inside of the tree ranging from native San inhabitants to Voortrekkers (Dutch settlers). A sleeper pub was also built inside with the ability to accommodate 60 people and has a music system installed. In another section of the tree a wine cellar was built. The insides of the tree remained at a constant 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 Fahrenheit) thanks to natural vents in the tree.
The Sunland Baobab could not be dated using tree rings but instead had to be dated using carbon dating. One estimate of the trees age even came in at over 6,000 years old! The tree had spectacular blooms in the spring time and it was home to several species of birds, in particularly two pairs of owls. Blooms come at night and native myths say that anyone who plucks a flower from a baobab tree will be ripped apart by lions since there are spirits in the flowers. Not every myth is bad, as anyone who drinks water in which the baobabs pips have been soaked in, will be mighty and will have protection from crocodiles.
Baobab trees are found in sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and Australia. They thrive in dry climates and tend to sprout up by themselves. The trees do not thrive in wet environments and they are also susceptible to black fungus which kills all but the hardiest of specimens. The trees odd shape lead to the native populations believing that the tree had angered the gods who sought their revenge by planting the tree upside down. Elephants, monkeys and baboons eat the fruit from the tree which has the same vitamin C equivalent of four oranges. Its pollen can be used as a glue and its seeds are rich in protein, calcium, oils and phosphates. These seeds can also be roasted and grounded like coffee beans. Its leaves can be used like spinach and the wood from the trunk can be woven into mats and rope. The bark can be used to make beer or tea. One would think that the bar inside the Sunland Baobab served this kind of beer.
There is certainly some danger into what was going on with the Sunland Baobab. While these trees are hearty mankind can threaten them. Another baobab, the Nomsiang Baobab was so overwhelmed by human visitors that the ground became trampled and impervious to rainwater which killed it. The owners of the Sunland Baobab, the van Heerden family implemented steps to make sure that the same fate did not await their tree. Despite that part of the tree collapsed in August of 2016. The owners intended to simply leave the tree alone and allow it to heal thereby incorporating the damaged section into the tree. Unfortunately the rest of the tree collapsed in April of 2017. Guess you’ll have to go somewhere else now to party inside of a tree.