Sausage Tree

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Sausage Tree
Kigelia africana compose.jpg
K. africana habit, fruit, flower and seeds
Scientific classification

K. africana
Binomial name
Kigelia africana
This is a picture of a Sausage Tree (Kigelia Africana)

A Sausage tree is a type of plant species that are located in South Africa. Its scientific name is Kigelia Africana.

Overview[change | change source]

Sausage tree wood is used to make an African xylophone instrument. The sausage tree flowers bloom mainly at night, to attract night-flying bats as pollinators. Tonga women of the Zambezi valley use treatments of dried sausage tree fruit as a facial cosmetic to keep skin smooth. Dried whole sausage tree fruits can be used as firewood in a pinch—they burn well because of the oil content in the seeds. Sausage tree seeds germinate better after being stored for a year, probably because the tree sheds the fruit before the seeds are fully mature and they continue to develop on the ground.

With its peculiar, sausage-shaped fruit and blood-red, tulip-shaped flowers, the sausage tree Kigelia Africana (also Kigelia Pinnata) is a striking standout. It is native to tropical Africa, where it grows in open woodlands, along riverbanks and streams, and in floodplains. The trees take advantage of the alluvial soil in areas that flood periodically, a location where other trees do not do well, and where they are protected from herbivores for some part of the year, giving them a chance to regenerate. Sausage trees are fast-growing in the right conditions and can reach 50 feet in height. Baboons are one of the species that will dine on sausage tree fruit.

Characteristics[change | change source]

Semi-deciduous with flaky, brown bark, these trees are mature at four to six years and flower from winter to early summer. The flowers are large and dark red with yellow pistils and stamens, and they grow on long, pendulous, rope-like stalks that hang down below the main crown of the tree. This makes them easily accessible to their main pollinators: bats, sunbirds, and insects. The flowers produce a large amount of nectar to tempt pollinators, but that also makes them a treat for other animals, including antelope and baboons. The scent the flowers produce is unpleasant to humans, but that doesn’t seem to deter other primates from snacking on them.

The tree’s fruits are its most flamboyant features. Dangling in clusters from long, pendulous stems, each thick-skinned fruit can get to be 3 feet in length and weigh up to 30 pounds! Attention should be paid when walking under these trees, to avoid getting beaned by falling fruit torpedoes. Some animals eat the fruits, but unripe fruit is poisonous, especially to humans. To make them edible, people bake them and slice them to eat the cooked pulp. The seeds are roasted as well and can be a nutritional resource since they are energy-rich and contain essential fatty acids.

Sausage tree leaves also have a nutritional benefit and has been compared to green, leafy vegetables like spinach, containing minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron. Elephants and kudu eat the leaves, and people dry the leaves and eat them as well. They are also used to feed livestock.

Uses[change | change source]

Sausage trees are popular trees to plant along streets in South Africa since their spreading crown of dense, leathery, glossy foliage provides shade. The wood of the trunk can be used for lumber, but it is soft and therefore not favored for construction. However, for thousands of years, people living along the banks of large rivers have used the huge trunks by hollowing them out to make canoes.

Cooked sausage tree fruit is a common ingredient used in making traditional African beer; it is said to increase the speed of the fermentation process. The fruit and leaves have also been used for a wide variety of medicinal purposes, and legend has it that if people hang the fruit in their houses, it will protect them from storms and hurricanes. Not surprisingly, considering the appearance of the fruit, it is also considered a symbol of fertility.

The rind of the fruit is used to aid the fermentation of the local brews. The pods are kept as religious charms and fetishes and produce a red dye when boiled. The ointment is made from the fruit and is used to treat skin conditions. And Meyer's parrots are fond of the seeds. Mekoro are dug-outs made of the trunks and large roots of the sausage trees. These canoes have been used for thousands of years as transportation in the Okavango River delta in Botswana. The 'sausages' cannot be eaten but the skin is ground to a pulp and used externally for medicine. Its most important use is for the cure of skin ailments especially skin cancers. The fruit is burnt to ashes and pounded by mortar with oil and water to make a paste to apply to the skin.

Description[change | change source]

The sausage tree of sub-Saharan Africa is beautiful in flower. The blood-red to maroon flowers hang in long panicles. The fragrance of the flower is not pleasing to humans but attracts the Dwarf Epauletted Fruitbat (Micropteropus pusillus), its pollinator. As the flowers drop from the tree, animals come to feed on the nectar-rich blooms. Impala, duiker, baboons, bush pigs, and lovebirds all feed on the flowers of the Sausage tree. Grey fruits grow out of these flowers. These grey fruits resemble sausages and can grow for months to become over a foot long and weigh over 10 pounds.

Sausage tree, (Kigelia Africana), tropical tree, the only species of its genus (family Bignoniaceae). It grows 6 to 12 metres (20 to 40 feet) tall and bears sausagelike fruits, 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 feet) long, which hang down on long, cordlike stalks. It is native to Africa.

The tree’s flowers, about 10 cm (4 inches) wide, are purplish-green in colour and are slightly irregular in shape or bent to one side. They are produced on old wood and so hang that they can be easily visited by bats, the principal pollinators. The flowers do not bloom until nightfall when they emit a mouselike odour, and bats visit them for nectar and pollen. By morning the flowers have fallen.

Flowers and fruit[change | change source]

The blood-red flowers of the South African sausage tree bloom at night on long, ropelike stalks that hang down from the limbs of this tropical tree. The fragrant, nectar-rich blossoms are pollinated by bats, insects, and sunbirds in their native habitat. The mature fruits dangle from the long stalks like giant sausages. They may be up to two feet (0.6 m) long and weigh up to 15 pounds (6.8 kg).