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The Strange Sausage Tree


Debbie Barton

Debbie Barton

The sausage tree or Kigelia Africana (no 678) is one of the exceptional trees of the Kruger National Park. Its name is derived from the fact that the fruit of the tree resembles a sausage. It is a tropical species which occurs in the eastern part of South Africa, stretching from Natal to the Northern Province, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and further northwards as far as Tanzania.

The tree grows either on the banks of, or close to rivers and large streams in the Kruger National Park. It is one of the larger trees of the lowveld. Although relatively short, the stems usually have a diameter of about 1,5 meters, with a widespread crown.

The tree does not branch much and the tips of the branches are unusually thick. The sausage tree is a deciduous fruit and sheds its leaves in late autumn and sometimes even in winter, depending on the moisture conditions.

The flowers are unmistakable. They are borne in spring and open very slowly. Sometimes they are on the tree for as long as two months. Like the leaves, they are set in whorls of three on a central rachis.

The sausage-shaped fruit grows up to 50 centimeters in length and 10 centimeters in diameter. It is grey-green to pale brown in colour, hard and exceptionally heavy. The fruit hangs from a remarkably long stalk. The fruits fall from the trees in March/April of the following year. They lie undamaged on the ground for many months. They are definitely inedible and are reported to be poisonous, especially when still green.

Although a relatively unimportant source of food supply, elephant and kudu do eat the leaves, nyala the flowers and monkeys and baboons drink the nectar. Some African tribes regard the sausage tree as holy. Important meetings are held under the shade of the Sausage Tree and objects cut from the timber are worshipped.

Although the fruit is thought to be poisonous, it is still baked and added to beer brews to aid fermentation. In pulverized form, it is used to treat abscesses. A paste is made from the fruit and used to treat venereal diseases and rheumatism.
The wood of the tree is not very hard, but rather tough. When it is dry, it is easier to work with and produces a lovely smooth finish. Because the timber is strong and does not crack easily, it is used for the manufacturing of canoes, oars and yokes.


Where can I get a sausage tree plant in Johannesburg?

Posted by: Rodney

I have Lichen Planus and my Chiroprater suggested to use the African Sausage tree, but I don't know how to prepare it as an ointment to put on my legs. Is there someone who knows how to prepare it.

Posted by: Elna Badenhorst

I have 25 sausage tree fruits, would you like one to plant? aristotle01@mweb.co.za

Posted by: Aaron

To Debbie Barton, I have some small 3-4 month old sausage trees. We live in Peacevale/Drummand not too far away. You can contact me by e-mail at dave@sandop.co.za

Posted by: Dave Howard

Please tell me where I can buy one of these trees. My mom is a big bird lover and wants one badly. We are in Pietermaritzburg so it may be a problem. Even out of KZN, we can try arrange something.

Posted by: Debbie Barton




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