A baobab in Tete Province, Mozambique. Christian Kull, Author provided.
In a recent article titled “Baobab trees trace the African diaspora across the Indian Ocean” posted on www.theconversation.com, the author Haripriya Rangan of the School of Geography at University of Melbourne in Australia has undertaken research funded by the Australian Research Council in to how the iconic African Baobab tree ended up in India. With the Indian Ocean being her geographical frame for the research, for the past decade along with her colleagues they have studied the transfer of acacia species between Australia, India, South Africa, and Madagascar.
Inferred pathways of introduction from Africa to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Bell, Rangan et al. 2015
She has investigated how African baobabs were introduced in to the Indian Subcontiment by combining genetic analysis of the trees from Africa, India and the Mascarenes. Her results show that “The genetic analysis produced very interesting results. First of all, it showed that the Indian baobabs were the same species as the African species Adansonia digitata, and that there was less genetic diversity in the Indian baobab populations compared to the African populations. This confirmed our hunch that the baobabs had not been in the Indian subcontinent long enough for the populations to diversify, and that their dispersal by ocean currents was less likely than introduction by humans. Although many of the Indian baobabs showed close relationship with populations from coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania, there were some that showed closer relationships with baobabs from coastal and inland Mozambique, and also, surprisingly, from West Africa.” she writes in her article on www.theconversation.com.
The full study can be read on http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/2/9/150370.
In my first trip of The Sidi Project I visited the Sidi of Bhuj in the far west of Gujarat Province in India I was taken to one such tree. Located in the middle of a Bhuj high-school stands a large Baobab tree which has baffled locals for decades as to its original origin.
A Baobab tree standing in the grounds of Bhuj High School. Photo by Luke Duggleby/The Sidi Project