Sausage surprise

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!

 

 

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A crying tree – The Weeping Boer Bean

Although, when looking at the bushveld, is seems rather monotone (oranges and browns and greys in winter and greens and browns in summer), there are a myriad of colours hiding away for those who look closely.  In springtime especially there is quite a bit of red.

A favorite tree of mine is one with the most beautiful red flowers.  They stand out because they seem to shine brightly in the sunshine.  This is due to the copious amounts of nectar they exude – coating them in a sheen of sticky honey – so much so that the nectar drips onto the ground under the tree.  That is why it  is called the weeping boer bean.

Scotia brachypetala has quite a few other names too which help describe it.

  • Parrot Tree – the nectar attracts a lot of birds
  • Drunken Parrot Tree – excess nectar ferments and can have a mild narcotic effect on some birds
  • Weeping Boerbean – the name we use here – weeping due to the nectar dripping and bean because it is a leguminous tree
  • Huilboerboon – is the Afrikaans name (huil = cry)
  • Tree Fuchsia – totally different family to the fuchsia but has similar flowers (ballerina flowers)
  • African Walnut – the roasted seeds are edible.
While the tree in my garden pictured here is only about 3m tall, these trees can grow to about 22m high with a spread of 15 meters.
Not only is Schotia brachypetala an exceptional ornamental tree, it also has a number of other uses: A decoction of the bark is taken to treat heartburn and hangovers (good to know 🙂 ). Bark and root mixtures are used to strengthen the body and purify the blood, to treat nervous heart conditions and diarrhoea, as well as for facial saunas. The seeds are edible after roasting, Both the Bantu-speaking people and the early European settlers and farmers are said to have roasted the mature pods and eaten the seeds, a practice which they learned from the Khoikhoi. The bark can be used for dyeing, giving a red-brown or red colour.
Here are some pictures of the flowers
In the picture below you can see the gooey nectar. Also the bean pod in the middle of the flower and some ants busy collecting nectar.

Crown of thorns

The first spring colours in my untamed bushy garden are from these red and yellow “Crown of Thorns“. (euphorbia milii)  The bright red and yellow flowers arriving before the leaves even start to bud.  I originally thought these plants were Kudu lilies, but on closer investigation the flowers were all wrong.  Now that I have identified them, I have found out that they are not indigenous to the area but originate from Madagascar.

The purist in me says that I should only have indigenous plants on my farm, not only indigenous to South Africa, but indigenous to my area of South Africa.  If I were to follow that rule, I would have to uproot 3 big leopard trees, 3 bougainvillea, 4 crown of thorns, and  4 pachypodia (halfmens) as well as the new green leafy bed that my parents and I planted recently below the window of the guest cottage. Also, how do I then justify my veggie patch?

I have decided that I will keep my non-indigenous plants in beds and keep an eye on them, and when the leopard trees die, replace them with indigenous trees.  The bush around the cottages will remain natural indigenous bush.  I know it’s a bit of a compromise, but life is like that sometimes.

Time for a little sourness?

After all the sweetness of  Christmas and new year, I think it’s time for a little sour….

The sour plum trees on our farm are now fruiting.  When I say sour, it’s probably the  sourest thing I have ever tasted (and that includes all the crazy sour sweets available these days).  These fruit are chock-full of vitamin C and are enjoyed by birds and animals alike – how the heck they don’t have a sour attack each time they bite one I will never understand.  I have heard that it makes a divine jam or jelly.  I think that may be the only way I would be able to eat this fruit – with a ton of sugar in jam or jelly.  I am always looking for ways to use the natural plants around us on the farm.

The large sour plum (ximenia caffra) is a small tree or shrub with many traditional uses and colourful fruit which attract baboons, fruit-eating birds and various butterflies. The thinly fleshy, oval, attractive fruit are a glossy deep red with white-ish speckles. The larvae of various butterflies including the Natal bar, Silvery bar, Bowker’s sapphire, Saffron sapphire, Brown playboy and Bush scarlet butterfly feed on the leaves of this tree.

Ripe fruit has a vitamin C content of 27%, is high in potassium and contains protein. The seed has a 65% oil content. Fruits have a refreshing (ha right…) sour taste, best eaten when slightly overripe, but can also be used for making jam, dessert and jelly. They can be added to porridge. Oil from the seed is used to soften human skins and for softening animal hides. It is also used for lamps. The nuts are also eaten.

A decoction from the leaves is used as a wash to soothe inflamed eyes. Infusions of the roots are used as a remedy for dysentery and diarrhoea and together with the leaves are taken for abdominal pain and bilharziasis. Powdered roots are applied to sores to speed up healing; used in soup, and in beer as an aphrodisiac. Powdered dried leaves are taken orally for fever and infertility, and extracts of the leaves are used as a gargle for tonsillitis, and as a vermifuge. Porridge is made using a decoction of the roots, and eaten once a day for nausea in pregnancy; the root decoction is also taken for infertility.

I think, from all these uses, I may be able to cope with making the fruit into jam and maybe eating the seed (nut) – I will have to give it a try.

 

 

 

He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Full house?

I think they are almost ready to fly. Well I hope so.  The is no room left for growth.  Learn more about these chicks on the following posts.

Mobile home?

The  giant african land snail (Achatina sp.) I found sneaking around my parsley.

Replacing roof support.

A hair-raising experience which I really couldn’t watch.  I was afraid the entire roof would collapse during the process.

1.  Rotten roof support devoured by termites.

Really devoured!

2.  Support roof and remove old tree trunk.

3. You call that support???

4. Lots of hard work

5. New roof support. Whew!

I live in my house as I live inside my skin: I know more beautiful, more ample, more sturdy and more picturesque skins: but it would seem to me unnatural to exchange them for mine.

~ Primo Levi