Baobab: The Miraculous Tree of Life

The Baobab Tree is Considered a Miracle Plant Because It Stores Lifesaving Water

tree of life Baobab
A giant Baobab tree at the Pafuri game reserve in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images News

The Baobab tree (known scientifically as Adansonia digitata) is often called the Tree of Life (and considered a miracle plant) because it stores life-sustaining water inside its trunk and branches.

In Africa and Madagascar, where the tree grows in arid regions, the tree's water is a valuable resource. The Baobab tree is an ancient survivor; some Baobab trees have lived more than 1,000 years.

The phrase "tree of life" is rooted in religious history.

The original tree of life was in the Garden of Eden, Jews and Christians believe. In the Torah and the Bible, cherubim angels guard the tree of life from humans who had fallen into sin: "After he [God] drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24). Jews believe that Archangel Metatron now guards the tree of life in the spiritual realm.

Miraculous Water Help

When nomadic people and wild animals (such as giraffes and elephants) can't find enough water from their usual sources during a drought, they would be in danger of dying from dehydration if it weren't for the Baobab tree, which stores the water they need to stay alive.

People cut the tree's branches or trunk to access drinking water that is miraculously available even during severe droughts. Animals chew on the Baobab tree's branches to open them up, and then use the branches like straws to drink the water from inside the tree.

Large Baobab trees may contain more than 30,000 gallons of water at once.

In his book The Remarkable Baobab, Thomas Pakenham writes that the Baobab tree "is found in 31 African countries -- in fact in every part of the African savannah where the climate is hot and dry and most other plants (and people) find it difficult to live.

This is the miracle that the Baobab performs. It's like the salamander that revels in the fire. The Baobab puffs itself up to a gigantic size, to become one of the largest living things in the world, were other plants would wither and die."

Healing Fruit

Fruit from Baobab trees (sometimes called "monkey fruit" because baboons love to eat it) contains high concentrations of antioxidants, which protect the cells in people's bodies from damage.

Baobab fruit, which tastes like cream of tartar, features lots of the popular antioxidant vitamin C (which may help prevent cancer and heart disease). The mineral calcium (which helps keep bones strong) is also abundant in Baobab fruit. Other healing ingredients found in Baobab fruit include vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, and iron.

People can also eat the fruit's seeds and the leaves of the Baobab tree. Pakenham notes in The Remarkable Baobab that the tree is "a godsend to the poor" because people can make nutritious salads for free from its leaves and flowers.

A Baobab Miracle Shrine

In Eritrea, a shrine commemorating a miracle of the Virgin Mary is located inside a Baobab tree and attracts millions of pilgrims each year. The shrine, which is known as Maryam Dearit ("the Black Madonna") features a statue of Mary that people visit in the tree to pray there and remember a miraculously answered prayer that was reported there during World War II.

Baobab trees can grow so large that people sometimes take shelter by their trunks. In the book Padre from the Monastery to the Forest: A Memoir of My Life Journey in a War-Torn Eritrea and My Immigrant Life in the USA, Hiabu H. Hassebu tells the story of that miracle: "Two Italian soldiers, to avoid being targeted by a British jet fighter, hid themselves under a Baobab tree. While they were under the tree, they were reciting their Rosary. The British jet fighter, though it dropped the bomb exactly where they were hiding, the bomb shell hit the Baobab tree without being exploded. That was the time, the survivors realized, that a miracle had occurred."