Keeping an eye on Greens Baobab

Greens baobab is a historic tree found in the Magadikgadi area of Botswana.  The intrepid Green brothers were one of the many early traders, hunters and explorers to carve their names here, leaving “Green’s Expedition 1858–1859” scrawled into the tree’s bark and giving the tree its name.

Greens tree is found on the Gweta-Orapa track, 27 km south of Gweta.  To get there follow a dusty track that winds through thick mopani trees before emerging at Gusha Pan.  The tree is one of Botswana’s National Monuments.  A number of years ago fence was erected around it to protect it from elephants.  Sadly, the fence is now (2024) in bad shape and elephants are able to get through.

On a visit to Greens Baobab in December 2023 I noticed some fresh signs of elephant bark stripping on the east and west of the tree and recently broken branches.  Elephant damage at this tree is unexpected as there has not been any damage to the tree for many decades despite the presence of elephants in the area.  Concerned about this I visited the tree again in June 2024 and found no further damage.

As this tree is one of Botswana’s historic trees and a popular tourist site, I hope that one day the fence will be fixed to prevent further elephant damage and to dissuade people from camping close to the tree and damaging it.

I would like to keep tabs on the tree, so if anyone visiting the tree finds damage, please take photographs and pop me an email (info@

Sarah Venter

Thanks to Milbon for supporting the our long-term baobab monitoring project.


Here is an interesting exert from an article titled “Botswana’s Baobab Trail” by Alec Campbell published in Botswana Notes and Records, Volume 42 (2010):

“…… drive south for 30 km on the road (from Gweta) to Orapa. Gutshaa Pan, marked by a grove of palms, lies just east of the road and, a couple of hundred metres east of the pan, there is a baobab, now a national monument, ‘Green’s Tree’). The tree’s trunk is carved with the names of famous (and some infamous) nineteenth-century hunter-trader explorers. Fred and Charles (Canadians) mounted a hunting and trading expedition in 1858 to Ngamiland and the country north Makgadikgadi Pans. They visited the tree probably in early 1859 and carved ‘Green’s Expedition and the crest, a squirrel, into its bark. With them may have been JW Bonfield, eaten two later by a crocodile in Ovamboland; while Charles Green was drowned in the Okavango River in the late 1860s. Below ‘Green’s Expedition’ appears ‘PH Viljoen’. About 11 July 1852, young Viljoen, then 19 years old, carved his name into the tree while on a hunting and trading expedition with James Chapman and his father, Jannie Viljoen of Zeerust, farmer, hunter, trader, slaver, veldcornet and friend of Kgosi Sekgoma of the Bangwato. A small cross accompanying the date ‘1859’ shows that the ill-fated London Missionary Society’s ‘Makololo Mission’, camped nearby.

 Low on the east side of the tree appears ‘H v Z 1851’, the initials of Hendrik van Zyl. If the date is correct, van Zyl would have been only 21 years old; ‘1854’ is probably a more correct date. Van Zyl, Transvaal Republic politician turned hunter, trader and intriguer, built a large home near Ghanzi in about 1876. One of his more infamous exploits, apart from a bit of a child slaving, occurred in 1877 when, with his three sons, he drove 103 elephants into a muddy pan west of the Okavango Delta and slaughtered the

lot. He saved the lives of several stranded Doorsland-Trekker families, helping them on their way to Angola. His terrible reputation for beatings and murder amongst the Ghanziland Khoe eventually led to his sudden death at their hands.

Dr Sarah Venter