Part I – Considering myself a tree hugger, I thought I knew a thing or two about the importance of trees. However, as I am learning more about the local context, their importance has never been so dear and real.
The word Garab (tree in Wolof) is synonymous with medicine in the local language. The shade provides protection against the scorching sun (a true oasis during the day). The leaves and branches are the most important sources of natural fertiliser and building materials. People, soil, animals, plants, insects, microbes, fungi, air, water, minerals – everything in nature is connected and related to trees.
Part II – Silk cotton tree
Silk cotton tree is one of the landmark trees in the area.
They grow large and mature – expanding their trunks in width and girth. At the touch, the bark looks and feels smooth like elephant skin (what ? you haven’t touched one yet?! well, use your imagination ;-). However, my local language (Wolof) teacher, Baboucar tells me that monkeys dare not climb this tree – except if its life is in grave threat. Why? I wondered. The tree is smooth but looks easy enough to climb for monkeys. Finding a younger silk cotton tree, I realise why. It’s full of thorns!!! The younger tree is full of thorns and untouchable, but as it ages, it loses its spines and develops smooth (like silk cotton) bark. What an amazing transformation.