What weird fruits! The Sausage Tree [Kigelia africana (Lam.) Benth.] is aptly named. Strangely, the flesh of these seemingly appetising fruits, whether ripened or not, is toxic to humans. The exception is that in real hard times the seeds can be roasted and eaten. Also, the fruits can be dried and fermented along with the bark to provide a flavour enhancer for traditional beers.
However, every other part of the tree can be used in some kind of herbal medicine for conditions such as digestive and respiratory complaints, and for treating infections and wounds. Currently, investigations are being carried out to determine the potential of the tree to provide source materials for use as anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-tumour agents. Extracts from the tree are already being made up into lotions that are commercially available for treating skin disorders.
The photographs in this Post were taken at Cairns Botanical Gardens in Queensland, Australia where this is an introduced tree used for ornamental purposes. The species actually hails from tropical Africa where is grows wild in riverine rainforests, wooded grassland, savannah, and forest margins. In it’s native habitat, the Sausage Tree is considered sacred and is often protected from felling.
The tree can grow from 2.5 to 18 metres high. It has beautiful red tubular flowers with yellow veins. These have a distinct smell described as strongly unpleasant or musky. The flowers only open at night and are pollinated by blossom-feeding bats and hawk moths. The fertilised flowers develop into the sausage-shaped fruits that grow to lengths of between 30 and 90 cm long and to 7.5 to 10 cm in diameter.
By coincidence, 23thorns has also written about the Sausage Tree and it’s magical properties. Do go over and have a look – it is very entertaining.
Kew Royal Botanic Gardens Website
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