Baobab Tree at Mannar : Tree with the largest trunk in Sri Lanka (මන්නාරම බයෝබැබ් ගස)

The baobab ( also referred to as biobab boab, boaboa, bottle tree, upside-down tree, and monkey bread tree) is a native tree to Africa, Madagascar and Australia. There are 8 species of baobab, 6 in Madagascar, and 1 each in Africa and Australia. The tree is also referred to in Sri Lanka as the Ali-Gaha ( Elephant Tree) since the bark of the tree resembles the skin of an Elephant and the Tamils refer to it as ‘Perukka’.

The baobabs in Sri Lanka is believed to have been brought by Arabian Traders. According to a study done in 2003, there are about 40 Baobab Trees surviving in Sri Lanka, out of which 34 have been identified and measured in Mannar. Most of the trees were calculated to be 300-400 years old. The oldest and the largest baobab is at Pallimunei which is said to be about 800 years old. This tree was calculated as 723 years old in the 2003 study. The circumference of the tree is 19.5 meters and it’s 7.5 meters tall. This is the most popular of all ( see images taken in May 2008) due to its size and age.

Despite the baobab being an introduced species, it is protected in Sri Lanka given its rarity and antiquity. In earlier times Baobab trees had been growing in Jaffna (Yapanaya) and Puttlam too.

These trees have always caught the eye of the early English travellers to the country. Sir James Emerson Tennent in “Ceylon – An Account Of The Island” ( 1860) speaks of many trees in the Mannar area at that time.

The fort at Manaar, built by tho Portuguese and strengthened by the Dutch, is still in tolerable repair, and the village presents an aspect of industry and comfort. But the country beyond is sterile and repulsive, covered by a stunted growth of umbrella trees and buffalo thorns. The most singular objects in the landscape are a number of the monstrous baobab trees , whose importation from the western coast of Africa to India and Ceylon is a mystery as yet unsolved.

The popular conjecture is, that it was the work of the Portuguese; but the age of the trees, as indicated by their prodigious .dimensions, is altogether inconsistent with this hypothesis, and their introduction is probably referable to the same early mariners who brought the coffee-tree to Arabia, and the cinnamon laurel to Malabar.

The huge and shapeless mass of wood in these singular trees resembles a bulb rather than a stem. One of the largest, at Manaar, measured upwards of thirty feet in circumference, although it was a very little more in height.

‘The Book of Ceylon’ by Henry W. Cave in 1908 also makes reference to the number of such trees in the area

Manaar is scarcely worth a visit. It represents a dreary aspect in comparison with the rest of Ceylon, notwithstanding that in earlier times it was regarded as a place of considerable commercial importance from its proximity to India and the yield of its pearl fisheries. It is now famous only for its baobab trees (cidaiisonia digitata), which must have been imported many centuries ago from the coast of Africa, but by whom and for what purpose is a mystery. The peculiarity of this monstrous tree is in its shapeless massive stem, Whose circumference is equal to the height of the tree ….

Also See

Map of  Baobab Tree at Mannar

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)

The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Travel Directions to Baobab Tree at Mannar

Directions to the tree can be seen at the Mannar town itself. Travel along this road for 1 km and a tree lies next to the road in an open space at Pallimunei.

Route from Colombo to Baobab Tree at Mannar
Though : Puttalam – Anuradhapura – Medawachchiya
Distance : 320 km
Travel time : 6.30 hours
Driving directions : see on google map


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