If you spot a huge, weird-looking tree at the Jijamata Udyan in Byculla or near Bhabha Hospital in Bandra, don’t imagine that the War of the Worlds is actually happening. It just could be the baobab tree.
Aiming to map all of them on Google Maps, city-based musician Nelson OJ has created a Facebook page dedicated to baobab trees in Mumbai. “I was walking with a friend around Santa Cruz and she suddenly asked me if there were any baobabs in Mumbai. That day we ended up visiting two more baobabs. I wondered how many there are in the city and thought maybe we could locate the areas and map them on Google Maps. I also found an article from 2004 that mentioned 40 such trees in and around Mumbai. That’s how the idea of creating a Facebook page for it came up,” explains Nelson.
The baobab is native to Madagascar and was brought to Mumbai by the Portuguese. The tree can live for more than 3,000 years and grow to a height of up to 98 feet. It is often called the ‘tree of life’ by the African tribes.
“A baobab can store a large amount of water and is considered very precious as all its parts are useful. In Mandu, Madhya Pradesh, they sell the fruit of the baobab as it has a high content of vitamins and calcium,” says Nelson.
With the help of the Facebook page, Nelson and the group members have been able to locate and map about 20 trees in Mumbai so far.
“The response on Facebook was really great. A lot of people even uploaded pictures of baobabs in their areas,” says Nelson. However, he points out the sad news: the tree is an endangered species and is slowly dying out. “I learned from the Bombay Natural History Society that most of these trees are about 400-500 years old. However, experts say that the trees are dying because they are not being pollinated and their saplings are not available here,” says Nelson.
In addition to mapping the trees, Nelson also plans to get cycling enthusiasts together for a tour of the places where the baobabs are located in the city.