A third of the trunk of the world-famous Sunland ‘Big Baobab’ in Modjadjiskloof, Limpopo province, crashed to the ground last week, reports the Letaba Herald.
‘I heard a thundering crack, and I knew what happened.’
Heather van Heerden, owner of the Sunland Farm, said, “I heard a thundering crack, and I knew what happened.”
According to Van Heerden, sources say the main cause of the tree’s split and collapse is its age – dated at over 1 100 years old – along with the natural Baobab tendency of hollowing out its trunk as it ages.
The owners, Heather and her husband, Doug van Heerden state they intend to leave the trunk section exactly where it fell, allowing nature to take its course in reshaping and assimilating the feature.
Sunland’s Baobab is 22-metres high, and is some 47-metres in circumference.
In 2009, a task team from the department of chemistry at Babes-Bolyai University of Romania, funded by a grant from the Romanian National University Resaearch Council and the US National Science Foundation, estimated the age of the Big Baobab (the Sunland Baobab) to be about 6 000 years.
Due to the location of the Sunland Baobab, the lack of documentation on the area, and the varying growth speeds of baobabs, the size–age relation cannot be used for estimating accurately the age of African baobabs.
For large trees without a continuous sequence of growth rings in their trunk, such as the African baobab (Adansonia digitata L.), the only accurate method for age determination is radiocarbon dating. But this method was limited to dating samples collected from the remains of dead specimens. Collecting from a live specimen was a new challenge and led to inaccuracy in results.
Although the Big Baobab’s more recent history could be estimated at more than 1 700 years old with radiocarbon dating.
Sunland’s Baobab is 22-metres high, and is some 47-metres in circumference. It is still (and is likely to remain so) “the record holder for the species”, according to the SA Dendrological Society.
In 1993, the Van Heerdens cleared out the hollow centre of the tree, removing masses of compost buildup to uncover the floor about a metre below ground level.
In the process they found evidence of both the Khoisan and Voortrekkers, attesting to the historical importance of the tree.
They squared off a natural vent in the trunk to make a door and installed a railway sleeper pub inside the trunk, complete with draft beer, seats and a music system. One party had 60 people inside the tree bar. A wine cellar was installed in a second hollow, with a constant temperature of 22° C, ventilated by natural vents.
The tree blooms gloriously in spring. It is home to many bird species, including two pairs of owls.