By Ralph Stutchbury
Some time back, Ralph Stutchbury published an excellent book called Elephant, and now I have been privileged to acquire a copy of his new companion volume, Baobab. No African flora is as iconic of the Dark Continent as the fabled "upside down tree", and Ralph has certainly done it justice in this beautifully-presented 126-page hardback photo disquisition.
There are nine species in the genus Adansonia, one occurring in Australia and the others African. Two species inhabit the mainland, and six are found in Madagascar, with one only having been discovered in 2012. Colloquially they are known as baobabs.
Baobabs can attain a height of thirty metres, and grow to vast circumferences of up to forty-seven metres. One specimen of Adansonia digitata was carbon dated to an age of at least 1,275 years, falling short of the legendary bristlecone pine but easily taking the record for the oldest flowering plant.
The powdery white interior may be used in food preparation as a thickener, a sweetener, or a flavour enhancer for hot sauces. Africans eat the fruit pulp and seeds of certain species of baobab, and the Japanese have used it to flavour the soft drink Pepsi Baobab.
Ralph Stutchbury is a well-known photographer and filmmaker who grew up in the Zambian bush where his father was a game warden. Baobab is 126 pages of his own outstanding colour photographs which illustrate just about every facet of this great tree's natural history including interaction with man and wildlife. Its 10" x 13" high-quality hardcover format makes it the ideal shelf-mate to Elephant, and the text is informative, thought-provoking, and very well chosen and written.
Baobab is a one-of-a-kind book, that will give anyone a great deal of enjoyment. It is available directly from www.ralphstutchbury.com, and at $50 plus $10 packaging and shipping, it is a very worthwhile investment and addition to anyone's Africana library.