A tree of many names, the Baobab trees in Sri Lanka are a thing of mystery. It is a deciduous tree whose rounded crown is bare during the dry season. When the leaves are shed, the tree gives the impression that it had been planted upside down hence the name ‘upside down tree’, also referred to as the ‘bottle tree’ and the locals call it ‘elephant tree’, given its unusual and strange appearance and its huge barrel shaped trunk which narrows into branches. A native of Africa and Madagascar, baobab trees are also found in Australia, therefore it is believed that the trees were brought to Sri Lanka by Arab traders since the age of the trees predates the arrival of the Portuguese. Since camels eat baobab trees for its high water content, Arab traders travelling on camels would have carried these leaves as fodder thereby bringing it to Sri Lanka by coming from Arabia through Pakistan and the southern west coast of India and eventually crossing the Adam’s Bridge into Mannar.
Mannar is renowned for its oldest and largest yet behemoth baobab tree which captivates every viewer with its unusual shape and huge branches. It is situated in Palluminai and is believed to be about 800 years old with a circumference of 19.5 metres and a height of 7.5 metres. Baobab trees are a rare species therefore it is protected in Sri Lanka and has become a phenomenon for travellers who visit from all around the world.
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