If you want to see a Boab Tree, head to the Kimberley region of Western Australia. This unusual looking tree is found everywhere across the region, from around Kununurra all the way down to Broome you will see these incredible trees. They are quite the sight to see and we really love these beautiful ancient trees.
Boabs are a very slow-growing tree and it takes many hundreds of years for these to grow. They love well-drained sandy soil and the Kimberley region is the perfect growing environment for Boab’s as they receive plenty of warmth and water during their growing season (which happens to be the wet season) and then during their dormant period (the winter months / dry season) they prefer the drier conditions.
The boab tree is deciduous and loses all its leaves during dormancy in winter. As these winter months are the ‘dry season’ this is the time most travellers are in the area. Therefore, it’s generally a bare brown skeleton of a tree that is seen. The new flowers usually start to open around November.
Every boab tree is unique and some of them are said to be over 1500 years old. As for the history of the trees, the Aborigines used them for shelter, food and medicine. Once the white settlers arrived they were more commonly used as meeting points, or as described later, prison cells.
We’ve heard a few stories of why the boab tree looks the way it does, but one such story is that, initially the boab was one of the most beautiful majestic trees ever created. After a while it began to boast of its beauty to the other trees. It was after this that a higher being decided to punish it and turned it upside down to expose its roots and hide its beauty forever.
Boab trees have a ‘nut’ which grows and inside the nut are seeds. As mentioned previously, the indigenous people used this tree as a food source as most parts of the tree are edible. Apparently parts of the tree are very high in Vitamin C content.
Nowadays boabs are grown commercially and the boab roots are sold and make their way into many gourmet foods. We actually purchased the most amazing mango and boab chutney while we were in WA.
Art & Craft
The nuts themselves are covered in a fine hair which, once scraped off, reveals the dark brown boab nut. In many of the art galleries and craft stores around the Kimberly you will see the most amazing carvings that have been carved out on these nuts.
Boab Prison Tree
While on our Western Australian trip a few years ago we visited to Boab Prison Tree in Derby (pictured below). This tree is said to be around 1,500 years old and has a girth of 14.7 metres. It was used as staging point for prisoners being walked into Derby in the early days. This tree is now a registered Aboriginal Site.
As the trees age, their trunks become hollow. It was said that this tree was used as a “prison cell” in the 1890s by the local police to lock up Aboriginal prisoners over night, on their way to Derby for sentencing. It’s recently been reported that there is no evidence that this particular tree was ever used as a prison, but there was also another similar one at Wyndham.
We really do love these trees, there is just something about them. At the end of the day it is just a tree, but they are all so different and there is something slightly magical about these ancient creatures. We even brought our own boab home with us which sits proudly on our front entrance.