The owners of Sunland Farm in South Africa, home to one of the world’s most famous baobab trees, have a very pragmatic approach to the “breaking” news that one-third of their gentle giant’s trunk has crashed to the ground.
Heather van Heerden says it’s simply “nature’s way of renovating”.
Here’s the famous Sunland Baobab – in Modjadjiskloof (formerly Duiwelskloof), Limpopo – in its heyday a couple of years ago:
A couple of weeks ago, Heather uploaded the photo below, saying: “Hey! It seems our tree is opening up finally after the heavy rainfall a few years ago, seriously open plan now.”
And a couple of days ago, this photo was published by Letaba Herald in South Africa, showing that a third of the trunk has crashed to the ground:
According to the newspaper Heather and her husband Doug have decided to leave the trunk exactly where it fell so that it can be reshaped by nature naturally.
On Facebook Heather wrote: “It’s just nature taking its course.”
About a year ago one of the branches from the tree – which is at least 1,700 years old – broke off after rain. Heather’s daughter Holly explained to SAPeople that rain had fallen into a hull in the top of the tree and rotted off a section.
The legendary 22-metre-high tree holds the record for being the widest of its species; so wide in fact, at 47 metres in circumference, that there’s a bar inside! It was created by the Van Heerdens in 1993 when they cleared out the hollow centre of the tree’s massive trunk.
During the clearing-out process the couple found evidence of both Bushmen and Voortrekkers!
In more recent history, Wilma Paulsen revealed on SAPeople’s Facebook page that the farm once belonged to her grandmother’s family, the Vorsters, many years ago. “Mom says [the tree] was used as a storeroom when she was a child. Grandmother’s grave is there,” she wrote.
In 2009 an expert task team from overseas estimated the age of the Big Baobab to be around 6,000 years but due to various factors this can’t be absolutely verified. The baobab’s more recent history is estimated with radio carbon dating to be at least 1,700 years old!
Unfortunately it’s probably its old age, and the natural phenomenon of this species to hollow out their trunks as they get older, that has caused the latest split.
Nonetheless it’s still a beautiful tree, with a very special aura around it… and the damage reminds one that nothing stays the same, says Ronel Slabbert, who took some of the photos on this page.
“When you’re sitting underneath that tree, it feels like holy ground… especially if you put it into perspective that it could be older than the pyramids of Giza…”