Tuesday, December 29, 2009

and there in a wood

I've had some time off, which means walking the dog. On one of my many journeys through the park, I was naming the trees (Octopussy, General Grant, Burgermeister Meisterburger, Frau-Frau, Funeral, Scarface...), and it occured to me that the famous Bong Tree of The Owl and the Pussycat fame must be the Baobab.

"They sailed away
for a year and a day
to the land where the Bong tree grows.
And there is a wood...."

Don't ask me why I had this revelation on a frosty grey German day. There wasn't a Baobab in sight. But recently I’ve been leafing through a book called Remarkable Trees of the World, which features a number of fabulous Baobabs. It's also called “the bottle tree” (and you need a bottle to make a bong, right?). It's also called “the monkey bread tree,” “the cream of tartar tree,” “the chemist tree,” “the sour gourd” and “the lemonade tree.” And get this - there's a place in Tanzania called Bong'wa where this tree grows. Tanzania is a coastal country, thus reachable by peagreen boat. I know I've sometimes taken the Owl & Pussycat thing too far, but I'm sure Edward Lear couldn't resist slipping Baobabs into his poem, disguised as water pipes.

This photo shows Baobab alley in Madagascar, which, as you probably know from playing Risk, is an island off the eastern coast of Africa that split from the continent 160 million years ago. Since then you've had to sail there, although of course these days you could also fly.

There are different species, but mostly Baobabs are famous for just being weird and difficult to climb. You can see more here & here. And here are a bajillion more.


Anonymous said...

Me, I prefer a simple stand of red pine (dusted with snow, if possible).

Nice blog!

-- NE

June Calender said...

Has your reading also informed you that the baobab is not actually a tree? It's in the succulent family [cacti]. In central Africa it's the only tree elephants can't kill by eating off it's bark when food is scarce. Its entire trunk carries moisture and nutrients up to the limbs where as in actual trees the layer immediately below the bark is the only source of nourishment and the whole center is basically dead. Baobabs can have big hollows carved out of them and still live. I saw one so big that a room, used as a jail, has been made in it. They are fascinating giants in the forests.

Kass said...

There's a whole world of trees out there and blogs about them too. So fascinating.

BJeronimo said...

Madagascar is also famous for the zebu a singular cow with many characteristics similar to the brahman cattle (bos indico)

What I thik is pretty cool about the cattle is that nightly the ranchers sing to the cattle.

SarahJane said...

cattle make a good audience. i regale mine in the yard.

Dave said...

Of course baobabs are trees. "Tree" is not a phylogenetic category, and large woody plants have evolved among such diverse taxa as clubmosses (now extinct), grasses (bamboo), cycads, palms, etc.

Great post. Hope you don't mind if I submit it to the Festival of the Trees blog carnival for you.

SarahJane said...

Hi Dave -
I saw your post and sent this along! Thanks.

Jasmine said...

I'm familiar with Risk and the Owl and the Pussycat, but not this tree. Thanks or the introduction. Its very striking :)

Karen said...

Of course! The Owl and the Pussycat! I'd never really thought about it until now. And now it all makes sense...Succulent, tree, baobab, bong. I like it. Whatever it is.

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