Definitions

Adansonia gregorii

Adansonia gregorii

Adansonia gregorii, commonly known as boab, is a tree in the family Malvaceae. As with other baobabs, it is easily recognised by the swollen base of its trunk, which gives the tree a bottle-like appearance. Endemic to Australia, boab occurs in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, and east into the Northern Territory. It is the only baobab to occur in Australia, the others being native to Madagascar (six species) and Africa (one species).

Description

Boab is a medium sized tree, usually growing to a height of 9–12 metres. Its trunk base may be extremely large; trunks with a diameter of over five metres have been recorded. Boab is deciduous, losing its leaves during the dry winter period and producing new leaves and large white flowers in late spring.

Alternative names

The common name "boab" is a shortened form of the generic common name "baobab". Although boab is the most widely recognised common name, Adansonia gregorii has a number of other common names, including:

  • baobab — this is the common name for the genus as a whole, but it is often used in Australia to refer to the Australian species;
  • Australian baobab
  • bottle tree
  • dead rat tree
  • gouty stem tree
  • gadawon — one of the names used by the local Indigenous Australians. Other names include larrgadi or larrgadiy, which is widespread in the Nyulnyulan languages of the Western Kimberley.

The specific name "gregorii" honours the Australian explorer Augustus Gregory.

Uses

Indigenous Australians obtained water from hollows in the tree, and used the white powder that fills the seed pods as a food. Decorative paintings or carvings were sometimes made on the other surface of the fruits. The leaves were used medicinally.

A large hollow boab just south of Derby, Western Australia is reputed to have been used in the 1890s as a lockup for Aboriginal prisoners on their way to Derby for sentencing. The Boab Prison Tree still stands, and is now a tourist attraction.

References

  • Boland, D. J. et al. (1984). Forest Trees of Australia. Fourth edition, Collingwood, Victoria, Australia: CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 0-643-05423-5.

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