The University of Arizona

Age and Growth Rate Dynamics of an Old African Baobab Determined by Radiocarbon Dating

A Patrut, D H Mayne, K F vo, D A Lowy, S Venter, A P McNichol, M L Roberts, D Margineanu


In 2008, a large African baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) from Makulu Makete, South Africa, split vertically into 2 sections, revealing a large enclosed cavity. Several wood samples collected from the cavity were processed and radiocarbon dated by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) for determining the age and growth rate dynamics of the tree. The 14C date of the oldest sample was found to be of 1016 ± 22 BP, which corresponds to a calibrated age of 1000 ± 15 yr. Thus, the Makulu Makete tree, which eventually collapsed to the ground and died, becomes the second oldest African baobab dated accurately to at least 1000 yr. The conventional growth rate of the trunk, estimated by the radial increase, declined gradually over its life cycle. However, the growth rate expressed more adequately by the cross-sectional area increase and by the volume increase accelerated up to the age of 650 yr and remained almost constant over the past 450 yr.

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