|K. africana habit, fruit, flower and seeds|
Kigelia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Bignoniaceae. The genus consists of only one species, Kigelia africana, which occurs throughout tropical Africa. The so-called sausage tree grows a poisonous fruit that is up to 60 cm (2 feet) long, weighs about 7 kg (15 pounds), and resembles a sausage in a casing.
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".
It is a tree growing up to 20 m (66 feet) tall and it typically has spreading branches. The bark is grey and smooth at first, peeling on older trees. It can be as thick as 6 mm (1⁄4 inch) on a 15-centimetre (5.9 in) diameter branch. The wood is pale brown or yellowish, undifferentiated and not prone to cracking.
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 to 51 cm (12 to 20 inches) long, pinnate, with six to ten oval leaflets up to 20 cm (8 inches) long and 5.7 cm (2+1⁄4 inches) in diameter,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 m or 7–20 ft long). According to author/nature photographer Winston Williams, these stems, or peduncles can be up to 7.5 m (25 ft) in length. Flowers are produced in panicles; they are bell-shaped (similar to those of the African tulip tree but broader and much darker and more waxy), orange to maroon or purplish green, and about 10 cm (4 inches) wide. Individual flowers do not hang down but are oriented horizontally.
The fruit is a woody berry from 30 to 99 cm (12 to 39 inches) long and up to 18 cm (7 inches) in diameter, but 20 cm (8 inches) has been reported. Typically it weighs between 5 and 10 kg (11 and 22 pounds) but occasionally up to 12 kg (26 pounds), and hangs down on long, rope-like peduncles. The fruit pulp is fibrous, containing many seeds.
Some birds are attracted to the 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. The flowers also remain open by day however, and are freely visited by many insect pollinators, particularly large species such as carpenter bees. The fruit are 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 tree's foliage by elephants and greater kudu (Joffe 2003; del Hoyo et al. 1997). Introduced specimens in Australian parks are very popular with cockatoos.
Cultivation and uses
The fresh fruit is poisonous to humans 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.
Extracts of the bark, flower and fruit of Kigelia africana have been increasingly used in skincare products due to the high level of anti oxidant and anti inflammatory constituents. It has high skin firming efficacy due to its properties as a Phyto hormone.
The hard shell (skin) of the fruit can be hollowed out, cleaned, and made into useful, durable containers of varying sizes.
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.
In Mount Kenya, especially among the Kikuyu, Embu and the Akamba, the dried fruits are used to make an alcoholic beverage (muratina in Kikuyu, Aembu and kaluvu in Kamba), which is a core component in cultural events in Central Kenya. The fruit is harvested, split into two along the grain, before being dried in the sun. The dried fruits are then inserted into a fermentation vessel with older in use muratina (prural) to activate and infect the new ones with yeast. From then infected muratina become activated and the more they are used the more potent they become in converting sugars from sugarcane juice and honey to carbon dioxide and alcohol. The alcoholic drink is usually reserved for special occasions like weddings, dowry and burial ceremonies.
Sausage tree inflorescence
Fallen sausage tree flower corollas
A sausage tree in Botswana in use as an airport departure lounge
Seeds and husk of a broken fruit, Pune, India.
Entryway at the Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago, Il
- Sangita Saini; Harmeet Kaur; Bharat Verma; Ripudaman & S. K. Singh (2009). "Kigelia africana (Lam.) Benth. — an overview" (PDF). Natural Product Radiance. 8 (2): 190–197.
- 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.
- Williams, Winston. Florida's Fabulous Trees. Tampa: Worldwide Publications. p. 24.
- Huxley, Anthony. The New Royal Hort. Soc. Dictionary of Gardening. Vol. 2. New York: Stockton Press. p. 735.
- Lindley, John and Thomas Moore (1866). A Treasury of Botany. Vol. 2. London: Longmans, Green & Co. p. 647.
- Vandaveer, Chelsie (March 7, 2002). "Killer Plants". Retrieved 14 December 2004.
- "Kigelia Africana, Nature Cures All – Kaoko Botanicals Ltd".
- 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.
- "Kigelia africana". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Travel Africa: Sausage Tree.