|Kigelia africana in Serengeti National Park|
Kigelia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Bignoniaceae. The genus comprises only one species, Kigelia africana, which occurs throughout tropical Africa from Eritrea and Chad south to northern South Africa, and west to Senegal and Namibia.
The genus name comes from the Mozambican Bantu name, kigeli-keia, while the common names sausage tree and cucumber tree refer to the long, sausage-like fruit. Its name in Afrikaans Worsboom also means Sausage Tree, and its Arabic name means "the father of kit bags" (Roodt 1992).
It is a tree growing up to 20 m tall. The bark is grey and smooth at first, peeling on older trees. It can be as thick as 6 mm on a 15-cm branch (Roodt 1992). The wood is pale brown or yellowish, undifferentiated and not prone to cracking (Roodt 1992).
The tree is evergreen where rainfall occurs throughout the year, but deciduous where there is a long dry season. The leaves are opposite or in whorls of three, 30–50 cm long, pinnate, with six to ten oval leaflets up to 20 cm long and 6 cm broad; the terminal leaflet can be either present or absent. The flowers (and later the fruit) hang down from branches on long flexible stems (2-6 metres long). Flowers are produced in panicles; they are bell-shaped (similar to those of the African Tulip Tree but darker and more waxy), orange to reddish or purplish green, and about 10 cm wide. Individual flowers do not hang down but are oriented horizontally. Some birds are attracted to these flowers and the strong stems of each flower make ideal footholds. Their scent is most notable at night indicating that they are adapted to pollination by bats, which visit them for pollen and nectar. They also remain open by day however, and are freely visited by many insect pollinators, particularly large species such as carpenter bees.
The fruit is a woody berry from 30–100 cm long and up to 18 cm broad; typically it weighs between 5 and 10 kg, and hangs down on long, rope-like peduncles. The fruit pulp is fibrous and pulpy, and contains numerous seeds. It is eaten by several species of mammals, including Baboons, Bushpigs, Savannah Elephants, Giraffes, Hippopotamuses, monkeys, and porcupines. The seeds are dispersed in their dung. The seeds are also eaten by Brown Parrots and Brown-headed Parrots, and the foliage by elephants and Greater Kudu (Joffe 2003; del Hoyo et al. 1997). Introduced specimens in Australian parks are very popular with cockatoos.The trees are also found in large numbers in Ingraham Institute NH-24 campus, Ghaziabad Uttar Predesh in India. Whether it is the same species has not yet been verified.
Cultivation and uses
In African herbal medicine, the fruit is believed to be a cure for a wide range of ailments, from rheumatism, snakebites, evil spirits, syphilis, and even tornadoes (Watkins 1975). An alcoholic beverage similar to beer is also made from it. The fresh fruit is poisonous and strongly purgative; fruit are prepared for consumption by drying, roasting or fermentation (Joffe 2003; McBurney 2004). In Botswana the timber is used for makoros, yokes and oars (Roodt 1992). Kigelia is also used in a number of skin care products.
The tree is widely grown as an ornamental tree in tropical regions for its decorative flowers and unusual fruit. Planting sites should be selected carefully, as the falling fruit can cause serious injury to people, and damage vehicles parked under the trees.
- Bignonia africana Lam. (basionym)
- Tecoma africana (Lam.) G.Don
- Crescentia pinnata Jacq.
- Kigelia pinnata (Jacq.) DC.
- Kigelia abyssinica A.Rich.
- Kigelia aethiopica Decne.
Swahili: mbungati, mwegea, mnyegea, mvongonya (Standard Swahili Dictionary Oxford University Press, date unknown) In Hindi Balam Kheera."Hathi bailan'. In Luo "Yago"
A Sausage Tree in Botswana in use as an airport departure lounge.
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- Sangita Saini, Harmeet Kaur, Bharat Verma, Ripudaman, and S. K. Singh (2009). "Kigelia africana (Lam.) Benth. — an overview". Natural Product Radiance 8 (2): 190–197.
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Sargatal, J., eds. (1997). Handbook of the Birds of the World 4: 415. Lynx Edicions.
- Huxley, A., ed. (1992). Kigelia. In The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening 2: 735. Macmillan.
- Joffe, P. (2003). PlantZAfrica: Kigelia africana.
- McBurney, R. (2004). African Wild Harvest. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
- Roodt, Veronica (1992). Kigelia Africana in The Shell Field Guide to the Common Trees of the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve. Gaborone, Botswana: Shell Oil Botswana
- Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN): Kigelia africana.
- Travel Africa: Sausage Tree.
- Kigelia africana in West African plants – A Photo Guide.