Boabs: Ancient Trees, Modern Needs

The boab is the plant world’s most ardent multi-tasker. This native tree might tread the line between ugly and beautiful thanks to branches that resemble gnarled fingers and outrageous hourglass curves but its true magic stems from its ability to address a baffling range of modern-day afflictions. Here are five crises best solved by an encounter with Adansonia gregorii.

A temporary abode for the camping-averse

Exploring the outback but completely hapless when it comes to erecting a tent? You’re in luck. The boab may lay claim to a sinister past – it served as a jail cell for indigenous prisoners during the eighteenth century – but it can also double as a weatherproof residence courtesy of a hollow trunk that spans up to twenty metres in diameter.

An impromptu water source

Thriving for over a thousand years in the Australian desert calls for an extraordinary knack for water retention. Luckily, the boab, which can hold nearly 100,000 litres of water, over-delivers on this front. If you’re thirsty, chew a piece of fibrous bark or skip the mastication and install a tap.

A cure for flagging immune systems

Nutrient-rich and boasting elusive medicinal qualities, the boab played a starring role in indigenous diets across the Kimberley while chasing away everything from fever to malaria with ancient aplomb. These days, boab seeds – curious pods with an obscene vitamin C quotient – are an addictive alternative to orange juice. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

An instant fix for a salad malaise

There’s something dispiriting about a tired salad. Sweet, nutty and entirely edible, baby boab roots can lend your sorriest side-dish some much-needed punch. These delicate tubers are also a blissful addition to soups, dips and pickles.

An arresting alternative to iCal

Tired of a relentless stream of notifications? Nicknamed “Calendar Tree”, the boab’s deciduous rhythms allowed European settlers to read changing seasons with ease. Alternating between dramatic leaflessness and white-flowered splendour, the boab makes a hypnotic – if impractical – replacement for digital bleeps.

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