The Upside-Down Tree

The entrance and Fastpass distribution areas of Kilimanjaro Safaris are set around the base of a massive Baobab tree, under a structure inspired by a bar in Kenya that was a popular spot for the Imagineers during their research trips there.

Baobab trees (Adansonia digitata) are a common sight on the East African savanna. They grow to be incredibly large, storing water inside the sponge-like wood of the trunk to help the trees survive the long dry season. When the rains come, usually about three months out of the year, the Baobabs sport leaves and large white flowers and are typically pollinated by fruit bats.

Of course, the iconic Baobab trees seen on the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom are creations of the Disney Imagineers (sorry if that spoils it for anyone). Real Baobabs of this size would have to be more than a thousand years old and are practically impossible to transplant.

That's not to say there aren't real Baobab trees in Harambe. You just have to know where to look. I understand that Imagineering Landscape Designer Paul Comstock and his team planted seven real specimens (most of them saplings) throughout the land of Africa, but I'm most familiar with one:

This Baobab was relocated to Disney's Animal Kingdom from a parking lot in Miami (hence the white paint on its trunk). It's estimated to be about a hundred years old, so it's quite a bit smaller than its cousins on the savanna. This specimen is also different in that its branches are never barren. It's topped with bright green leaves all year long, since the climate of central Florida is considerably wetter than that of eastern Africa.

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