This massive apparently dry tree is none other than the Baobab (Adansonia digitata) of the Bombacaceae family. It simply demanded attention and the three of us holding hands together to form a chain could not completely encircle its girth!
Its startling feature is a thick trunk and combined with the palmate leaves, identification is fairly simple. The trunk stores water and the tree loses all its leaves during the dry seasons. The flowers are white and bell shaped and bloom at night. They are most likely to be bat-pollinated.
Baobabs are found in several parts of the world. I have spotted three in Pune but the photo above is from a place called Menavali near Wai in Maharashtra.
The tree can grow to be really really old and the hollow massive trunk of one such tree in Zimbabwe is said to be able to shelter 40 people! Whoa!!
In his book ‘Videshi Vruksha’, Prof SD Mahajan mentions a Baobab in Hyderabad that has a diameter of 5 m and is referred to as ‘हाथियों का पेड”. There is grove of several Baobab trees near Mandu in Madhya Pradesh as well.
In fact, the Baobab finds a mention in the list of Baobab species in the Landmark Trees of India. Though an introduced species in our country, it seems to have flourished here to the extent that it seems like an indigenous species.
Here is an image of an old Baobab in Pune that grows in the Savitribai Phule Pune University. The tree had collapsed since the trunk was hollowed by some infestion but as you can see, it had not died… The image is not very clear, but it does give a general idea.