Grandidier's baobab forest near Morondava, Madagascar
© Thomas Marent/Minden Picture
Today we celebrate the island nation of Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa, which became independent of France 60 years ago today. Madagascar's national tree is the stately baobab, impossibly tall and a little fantastical in shape. Its nickname is the ‘upside-down tree’, as it looks like it was planted with its roots in the air. Six of the world’s nine baobab species are native to Madagascar. The trees we’re looking at here are Grandidier's baobabs, the largest of them all, lining the Avenue of the Baobabs near the western coast.
This species can grow up to 100ft tall with trunks up to 36ft wide, although their size can change when trunks store water during rainy seasons to help them survive in times of drought. Baobabs are also known for their longevity; those growing along the Avenue of the Baobabs are estimated to be 2,800 years old. Locally, Grandidier's baobabs are referred to as 'renala,' or 'mother of the forest.'