The African baobab is the biggest and longest-living angiosperm tree. By using radiocarbon dating we identified the stable architectures that enable baobabs to reach large sizes and great ages. We report that 9 of the 13 oldest and 5 of the 6 largest individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died, over the past 12 years; the cause of the mortalities is still unclear.
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The investigation and collection of samples from the trees was approved and authorised by the South African National Parks, the Kruger National Park, the Mapungubwe National Park, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Namibia and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Botswana, the South Luangwa National Park. We thank H. and D. van Heerden, P. Philips and J. Chidgey, C. and Y. Liversage, L. Duplessis and R. and A. Whittall for granting permission for on-site investigation of baobabs located on their private lands. We also thank D.H. Mayne, M. Hofmeyr, S. Venter, A. Alberts, R. Wittmann, D. Dube and O. (Leon) Tsamkgao for helping to obtain permits and for participating at several field investigations. Special thanks go to J. Alexander for providing the photograph of Panke. This research was supported by the Romanian Ministry of National Education CNCS-UEFISCDI under grant PN-II-ID-PCE-2013-76 and by the Romanian Ministry of Research and Innovation CNCS-UEFISCDI under grant PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0776, no. 90/2017.