'A Caliban of a tree, a grizzled, distorted old goblin with a girth of a giant, the hide of a rhinoceros, twiggy fi ngers clutching at empty air, and the disposition of a guardian angel – such is Kimberlley’ baobab, friendly ogre of the great North-west. Food for his hunger, water for his thirst, a house to live in, fibre to clothe him, fodder for his flocks, a pot of beer, a rope to hang him, and a tombstone when he is dead – these are the provisions of the baobab for man. In all nature there is no ally so kindly, with the possible exception of the coconut palm.'
(Ernestine Hill 1940)
With their enormous size, distinctive and often grotesque appearance, and great age (measured perhaps in thousands of years), baobab trees attract the attention of botanists, amateurs, tourists and passers-by wherever they grow. Old specimens display highly individual, photogenic characteristics which endear them to local people, artists and photographers. European knowledge of the African baobab dates back to Renaissance times.
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