The real truth about water in baobab trees

baobab water storage


There’s a bit of a myth out there that you can tap water out of a baobab which is illustrated by this delightful cartoon.

The truth is that a freshly felled baobab trunk weighs about 850kg per cubic meter.  Once dried out, it weighs 200kg per cubic meter.  This means that baobabs are able to store 650 litres of water per cubic meter of tree.  In other words the tree consists of 76% water which is a lot!   But even though it has so much water, it is sadly not available for us to drink just like that.  Baobabs are actually very careful with how much water they use; they have ‘tight stomatal control’ (sounds like pinching my bladder).  The two most important functions of their stem water is to keep them standing upright and to help them flush new leaves at the beginning of the growing season.   They often shrink when this happens. 

Baobabs also store water in natural hollows between branches and on the outside for the trunk.  In very arid areas people often cut hollows into baobabs to create storage ‘wells’ to catch rainwater and perhaps this is where the myth began that Baobab trees can offer drinking water to passing animals and humans. 

Nina Geraghty