Wednesday, May 31, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 10, 1444 H
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Upside down trees!


HAVE you heard of huge elephantine like trees looking like they are growing upside down with its roots on top?

When Plakhotnikova Yulia, a Russian first came to Salalah in 2008, one of her main task was to help locate these large deciduous trees.

You may have never previously seen these trees as it is hard to distinguish them. It’s the Baobab trees which are grown in Dhofar Governorate and a few other spots in the Sultanate.

Though African Baobab (Adansonia digitata) commonly grows in Africa and Madagascar, the reason why this is found in the Sultanate is not very clear as scientists are trying to solve this puzzle.

Yulia’s maiden trip was with a purpose to locate Baobabs in Salalah and was tinged with adventure. Every big tree they noticed was thought to be the tree until they finally traced them.

“What if these trees were able to talk... I really want to talk to them,” she says excitedly.

In Salalah, these giant trees are found in Wadi Henna, Aqbat Hasheer and Dhalkout and locally known as ‘Hayrum aldhariya’.

“We experienced immense joy and happiness as they were so beautiful. The Baobab trees looked like someone had plucked them out and planted them upside down,” explains Yulia.

She says the huge strong trees look like elephants. “Maybe this is due to their grey cork with many folders and wrinkles. Since the first minutes I start to respect these trees,” she says. The trunks of Baobab trees are so fat partly because they can hold water.

It is reported that some Baobabs reach the age of over 1,000 years but the same time scientists say that it can be difficult to identify exactly the age of the tree.

And without knowing the reason one can imagine which events these Baobabs survived as they passed through so many centuries.

The Baobabs have survived many cyclones and typhoons. When Cyclone Mekunu struck Salalah in May, 2018 the new road was washed away by strong wadi stream but giant trees stood strong.

Yulia says the Sultanate is a wonderful country which is very diverse and particularly Dhofar Governorate is high in biodiversity for its flora and fauna. “It is only place on the Arabic peninsula where you can find mongoose, hyraxes, hyena, porcupines and other animals. Among 1.400 species of the fauna found in Dhofar, about 77 species are endemic as they can be found only there.”

She often enjoyed visiting the places with Baobabs in Oman. There are many of them in Dhofar, including the biggest and oldest in Dhalkout village while others can be found in Suhar and Liwa.

Presently, the Baobab forests are more accessible due to good approachable roads to Wadi Henna in Dhofar. However, she regrets that the trees are often subjected to vandalism as people carve their names on tree trunks.

These acts of violence should not be permitted as plants survive in very harsh environments. Baobabs are the only big trees that reach such immense heights in areas without artificial irrigation.

“It is important that we protect them and our nature without disturbing its ecological community,” she adds.

If you plan a trip to Wadi Henna in Dhofar and check with the locals: “Where I can find Baobabs?” But you will not get an answer as the Omanis do not know about ‘Baobab.’ Local Omanis are always ready to help but in Dhofar they call this tree Hayrum aldhariya which means ‘the plant from not here,’ which means the tree that does not come from Oman.

Yulia by profession is an experienced and licenced tour guide with equal interest in ecology and nature. Their flowers are relatively large and heavy as they blossom during the night to be pollinated by bats.

Salim al Rahbi (IG: e.o.omani.p) who loves nature and has an in-depth knowledge about flora of Oman says it is a perennial tree with an age of thousands of years.

Salim who showcases the plants and wildlife to the world through the social media says the plant is an edible one and has many uses.

“It makes a delicious drink because it is rich in Vitamin C,” he mentions.

Pictures by Yulia. IG @omanexcursovod and Salim al Rahbi IG @e.o.omani.p


Liju Cherian


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