One of my favorite trees growing here in the Lowveld is the sausage tree. Sadly it does not produce real meaty sausages but it does develop huge fruit shaped like giant sausages. These fruit have a tendency to drop on parked cars and make huge dents (just like coconuts) so don’t ever park under them.
I was thrilled when I saw that I had one near my cottages when I purchased the farm, but over the three years I have been here it has never produced fruit. It does have a lovely flower though.
The sausage tree, kigelia africana, occurs throughout tropical Africa from Eritrea and Chad south to northern South Africa, and west to Senegal and Namibia.
This is the one in my garden
Growing up to 20 m tall, the tree is evergreen where rainfall occurs throughout the year, but deciduous where there is a long dry season. The flowers (and later the fruit) hang down from branches on long flexible stems (2-6 metres long). Their scent is most notable at night indicating their reliance on pollination by bats, which visit them for pollen and nectar.
The fruit is a woody berry from 30–100 cm long and up to 18 cm broad; it weighs between 5–10 kg, and hang 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, elephants, giraffes, hippos, monkeys, and porcupines. The seeds are dispersed in their dung.
In African herbal medicine, the fruit is believed to be a cure for a wide range of ailments, from rheumatism, snake bites, evil spirits, syphilis, and even tornadoes. An alcoholic beverage similar to beer is also made from it. The fresh fruit is poisonous and strongly purgative; (ask my friend Vanessa who ate some!) The fruit are prepared for consumption by drying, roasting or fermentation. Kigelia is also used in a number of skin care products. Locally we use it mixed into aqueous cream to remove sun spots and solar keratosis’ very successfully. I keep a tub of it next to my bed and use it regularly.
For this reason, I was quite sad to see that my tree did not fruit, because I would have loved to have been able to make my own cream. I had assumed that I must have a male tree, but today as I was walking around the garden much to my surprise this is what I saw…….
Finally some fruit!