top of page

Scientists Can Now Use The RadioCarbon Technique to date the African Baobab Tree

One of the most famous baobabs trees is the Zimbabwe Big Tree. This particular tree receives thousands of visitors every year as people travel to see Victoria Falls.

Victoria Falls is a waterfall located between Zambia and Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River. Victoria Falls is one of the world's largest waterfalls in the world.

Scientists have been fascinated with the African baobabs trees for centuries and have wanted to date this beautiful creation, but never reliably could until now. Scientists now say they can determine the age of the baobab tree, specifically the Zimbabwe Big Tree which is 25 meters tall.

Most trees can be dated by counting the rings. Unlike other trees, however, baobabs can’t be dated based on the rings of the tree because some years baobabs don’t form rings and other years they form multiple rings in same year.

Researchers reported in Dendrochronologia, which is a peer-reviewed journal that presents research on the tree-ring studies, growth rings of woody plants, trees and shrubs, a new way of dating baobab trees. Now researchers are using radiocarbon dating to age the baobab trees. This radiocarbon dating is done by calculating the ratio of unstable carbon-14 with stable carbon-12 in samples of wood from the Zimbabwe Big Tree. The researchers found that the Zimbabwe Big tree contained stems from three different generations.

The oldest generation dating 1150 years ago. This date was older than the scientists’ initial prediction for the Zimbabwe Big Tree. Researchers believed that this particular tree was impacted by the weather events in that area that caused it to grow more slowly than others.

This radiocarbon method can now be used to date other trees, shrubs and plants that have complex growth histories. By understanding the age of these trees, researchers are able to know whether these trees have endured major climatic changes.

Although the Zimbabwe Big Tree has been around for 1150 years, now, “five of every six of the largest African baobabs have died.” Researchers believe this death effect of the baobab tree is due to climate change.


ShonSpeaks is the managing member of the The Fleming-Bruce Law Firm, P.L.L.C. She also is the lead blogger at and a licensed brain health specialist.


bottom of page