The Backstory of West Africa’s Biggest Tree

Emmanuel Kwarteng September 13, 2022
The tree is estimated to be around 350 to 400 years old -- Photo Credit: Minham0910

At the heart of the Essan-Apam Forest Reserve in Eastern Ghana stands a mammoth member of the Tieghemella heckelii species, which would later be known as West Africa’s biggest tree by size and height.

Forestry officials in Ghana claim that the giant tree near the town of Akim Oda—a suburb of Eastern Ghana—which measures 66.5m (218 ft) tall and 396cm (13 ft) in circumference, is the biggest single tree ever found in Ghana and West Africa.

The tree, which is estimated to be around 350 to 400 years old, is said to have a poor rate of natural reproductive success, which increases the likelihood that it will go extinct.

The current residents of Akyem Manso—a small community near the tree’s location, moved from Adansi in the Ashanti Region in 1426, according to oral tradition. The Big Tree was found in a nearby forest by one of the village’s fetish priests, who revered it as a sacred site.

A farmer made an effort to eliminate the tree in 1930 by igniting the area surrounding it. Shortly after attempting to remove the tree, he passed away. There were fatalities in several failed attempts to remove the tree. With time, stories about the mystic tree spread widely. While some people attempted to remove the tree, others were enthralled and captivated by the tales about it that were being told.

A chainsaw operator by the name of Antieh is credited with successfully taking down the tree in 1966. Three days later, the tree was unexplainably restored to its original location. A short time after the bizarre event, the chainsaw operator passed away.

Following all of these mysterious occurrences, the tree has come to represent the ancestral home of the Akyem Manso people. The tree is a sacred location where Akyem Manso residents honour their predecessors and the tree’s spirit during their annual festival. A breathtaking tourist destination in Ghana is The Big Tree. It is a special tree because it has a uniform girth from bottom to top, whereas other tropical trees have enormous buttresses, many branches, and a tapering girth.

The cylindrical tree has a thick grey back, longitudinal ridges, and splashes of bright green leaves that add to its distinctiveness. It is believed that the fruits of the tree cure stomach upset. To treat headaches and reduce excessive snoring, the fruits can also be grinded and inhaled. Also, the bark of the tree is said to have some fertility benefits.

Facelift project

The Big Tree Eco-tourism site was founded in the 1950s and was formally recognized as a tourist destination in 2004 by Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, who was then the country’s Minister for Tourism and Modernization.

With assistance from additional stakeholders, including the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), the Forestry Commission, the Member of Parliament, and Traditional Authorities in the area, the Ghana Tourism Development Company (GTDC) set out on a mandate to transform the tourism site to an impressive industry standard in 2020.

A new entrance, thrilling hiking trails leading to the Essen-Epam Forest Reserve and the Asuboni Forest Reserve, the labeling of 22 species of trees with their botanical names for educational and research purposes, photo signage, and other improvements to the visitor experience are all part of phase one of the site’s redevelopment.

Additionally, the reception facility underwent renovations, and as a result, it now has offices, a visitor information center, an event space, and other essential ancillary amenities. The Bako species tree, locally known as “the Oda Big Tree” has the botanical name Tieghemella heckelii.

Last Edited by:Francis Akhalbey Updated: September 14, 2022


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