Friday, January 29, 2010

Kigelia africana

Every visitor to the Kruger park has seen the spectacular Kigelia africana. Although it is native to the warmer regions of the country, it can be seen growing beautifully in many other areas throughout South Africa. The Sausage tree tolerates a wide variety of conditions but is not frost hardy. This beautiful shade tree is evergreen but in areas where there are long dry periods, some loss of leaves may occur. The large, deep red flowers appear in early spring and literally overflow with nectar, attracting a variety of birds, insects and the nectar eating fruit bats, that pollinate the tree. The long, sausage shaped fruits may take up to 6 months to mature, giving the tree it’s distinctive appearance. In the wild, Kigelia africana attracts a variety of game that feed on the flowers and the fruit.


Botanical Name: Kigelia africana
Common Name: Sausage Tree
Genus: Bignoniaceae
RSA National Tree No’: 678


If you are looking for a tree that lends an exotic touch to your landscaping project and makes a real statement, Kigelia africana does just that and more. This magnificent tree with it’s beautiful flowers and cylindrical fruits is a real talking point while having the added bonus of being an ideal shade tree. The Sausage tree looks stunning as an isolated specimen tree in a large garden and is ideal for use on large estates and municipal parks. The large amounts of nectar produced by the flowers attract a variety of sunbirds as well as orioles, bulbuls and even masked weavers. The tree is an excellent container species making it an interesting alternative for smaller gardens, patios and paved areas. Kigelia africana is popular with bonsai enthusiasts. As the root system is invasive, the Sausage tree should be planted away from buildings, paving and swimming pools.


Height: 8 – 10m
Spread: 6 – 10m
Deciduous/Evergreen: Evergreen
Growth Habit: Kigelia africana occurs on riverbanks and streams as well as floodplains in warmer parts of the country.
Bark: The bark of the Sausage tree is grey and smooth. Peeling occurs on older trees.
Foliage: The Kigelia africana has dark green compound leaves consisting of 3 – 5 pairs of leaflets and one terminal leaflet. The entire leaf is about 300mm long.
Flowers: The large, showy flowers are borne in open auxiliary sprays in early summer. Each cup shaped flower is deep red on the inside and reddish brown on the outside with green veins. They produce copious amounts of nectar and have a rather unusual smell.
Fruit: The distinctive, sausage shaped fruit is hard and greyish-brown, growing up to 500mm long and 100mm in diameter and contain a fibrous pulp on the inside with numerous seeds. The fruit appears from December to June.
Seed: The hard seed is roundish and brown .


Growing regions: The Kigelia africana occurs throughout Africa from Chad to South Africa and even in the West to Namibia.
Growing conditions: The Sausage tree should be planted in full sun, in a large hole with good soil, plenty of compost and well rotted manure and should be kept well watered at first.
Best season: Spring - Summer
Hardiness: This lovely tree prefers warm, frost free conditions and tolerates temperatures from 4 – 40 degrees.
Propagation: The Kigelia africana is easy to propagate from fresh seed sown in river sand in September but can be grown from truncheons as well.
Growth rate: Fairly fast, up to 1m in favourable conditions.


The Kigelia africana is best known for the large variety of anti-bacterial and skincare products that are produced from the fruit extracts, which are used to alleviate such skin conditions as psoriasis, eczema, solar keratosis, burns and fever blisters. In African herbal medicine, the specially prepared fruit is use to cure a wide range of ailments from rheumatism to syphilis. In Botswana the wood is used to make dugout canoes, oars and yokes while in Malawi, shelves and fruit boxes are made from the wood. The fruit is used extensively to brew an alcoholic drink.

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