A man in Madagascar harvests bark from a baobab tree near the village of Andavadoaka. He’ll use the bark to make rope, but baobabs on this island country off the southeast coast of Africa are also worshipped for religious reasons. “In Madagascar, the practice of tree worship is based on the belief that ancestor spirits live in the trees and forests as well as any other natural formations that are considered peaceful,” explained Armand Randrianasolo and Alyse Kuhlman, who collaborate on sacred tree projects at the Missouri Botanical Garden. (See more pictures of Madagascar from National Geographic magazine.) “It is their belief that when a family member dies, their spirit resides in the natural environment to watch over their kin, relay messages to and from God, and grant blessings, wishes, and requests.” It is common to see offerings of rum, honey, antiquated money, or candy at the base of baobab trees in Madagascar. Or Malagasy paying homage to their ancestors by wrapping the trunk or branches with white or red cloth. (Related: “Africa's Iconic Baobab—the Vitamin Tree.”) —Tasha Eichenseher

Baobab, Madagascar

A man in Madagascar harvests bark from a baobab tree near the village of Andavadoaka. He’ll use the bark to make rope, but baobabs on this island country off the southeast coast of Africa are also worshipped for religious reasons. “In Madagascar, the practice of tree worship is based on the belief that ancestor spirits live in the trees and forests as well as any other natural formations that are considered peaceful,” explained Armand Randrianasolo and Alyse Kuhlman, who collaborate on sacred tree projects at the Missouri Botanical Garden. (See more pictures of Madagascar from National Geographic magazine.) “It is their belief that when a family member dies, their spirit resides in the natural environment to watch over their kin, relay messages to and from God, and grant blessings, wishes, and requests.” It is common to see offerings of rum, honey, antiquated money, or candy at the base of baobab trees in Madagascar. Or Malagasy paying homage to their ancestors by wrapping the trunk or branches with white or red cloth. (Related: “Africa's Iconic Baobab—the Vitamin Tree.”) —Tasha Eichenseher
Photograph by Mint Images Limited, Alamy

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