The baobab is an iconic and prehistoric species which predates both mankind and the splitting of the continents over 200 million years ago. Native to the African savannah where the climate is extremely dry and arid, it is a symbol of life and positivity in a landscape where little else can thrive. Over time, the Baobab has adapted to its environment. It is a succulent, which means that during the rainy season it absorbs and stores water in its vast trunk, enabling it to produce a nutrient-dense fruit in the dry season when all around is dry and arid. This is how it became known as “The Tree of Life”. Adansonia digitata is named after the French botanist Michel Adanson, who undertook an 18th-century exploration of Senegal. Baobabs are widely distributed in belts across Africa. Of the nine species accepted as of April 2018, six are native to Madagascar, two are native to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and one is native to Australia. One of the mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that island. It was introduced in ancient times to south Asia and during the colonial era to the Caribbean. The African and Australian baobabs are almost identical despite having separated more than 100 million years ago, probably the Australian trees got there by oceanic dispersal.
When I first learned of the Madagascar Spiny Forest garden at the Los Angeles Arboretum, I knew I had to visit. I have arbitrarily split the Madagascar Spiny Forest at the Los Angeles County Arboretum into two portions, roughly larger and smaller plants. This installation is a must for anyone planning to visit Madagascar or for those obsessed with succulents. This part is devoted to the famous Alluaudia and other trees of Madagascar. The Didiereaceae comprise 11 species divided into 4 genera, of which the largest is Alluaudia (six species). Alluaudia has been subdivided into the 2 sections Alluaudia and Androyella. In this way, Alluaudia procera has two sisters, Alluaudia ascendens and Alluaudia montagnacii. I have decided to do fairly major posts on this garden due to my recent visit to Madagascar. I hope this fills in the gaps on my plant coverage from there. In addition to this outdoor garden at the Arboretum (the only one on the West Coast), other collections of Madagascar’s unique plants that can be seen in the United States include: the Lin Lougheed Spiny Forest of Madagascar at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables, Florida; a collection of spiny forest plants in Koko Crater Botanical Garden, a satellite site of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens, Oahu, Hawaii; an indoor collection at Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Atlanta, Georgia; and the indoor Spiny Desert of Madagascar at Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland, Ohio.