Radiocarbon dating of a very large African baobab. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • In late 2004, Grootboom, probably the largest known African baobab (Adansonia digitata L.), collapsed unexpectedly in northeastern Namibia. Ten wood samples collected from different areas of the trunk were processed and investigated by accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating. The radiocarbon dates of three samples were greater than 1000 years BP (radiocarbon years before present, i.e., before AD 1950). The corresponding calibrated calendar age of the oldest sample was 1275 +/- 50 years, making Grootboom the oldest known angiosperm tree with reliable dating results. Variations in radiocarbon dates among the wood samples indicated that, morphologically, Grootboom was a quintuple tree, whereas genetically, it was a single individual. Ages of extreme lateral samples revealed that, over the past 500-600 years, Grootbooom had almost ceased growing, providing information about climate changes in central southern Africa. The sudden demise of Grootboom coincided with the spread of the poorly studied baobab disease, which has become epidemic in Namibia.

publication date

  • November 2007