Botanical Name: Kigelia africana
Common Name: Sausage Tree
Kigelia Africana is commonly known as Sausage tree due to the unique fruits that look like giant sausages! The fruits hang from the tree in rope-like stalks and, in Africa, can reach over a metre in length and weigh as much as 10kg. In the temperate climate of Madeira these trees grow very well, although the fruits are smaller and not quite as heavy. In the beautiful municipal garden, right in the centre of Funchal, you can find a wonderful specimen bearing fruits all year round.
The fibrous fruit pulp contains numerous seeds and is eaten, in Africa, by several species of mammals, including baboons, elephants, giraffes, hippopotamuses and monkeys. The seeds are dispersed in their dung.
Kigelia Africana belongs to the Bignoneaceae family and the genus comprises only one species, which occurs throughout tropical Africa. 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) are produced in panicles and hang down from branches on long flexible stems. They are similar to those of the African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata) but broader and much darker. Individual flowers do not hang down but are oriented horizontally. Their scent is most notable at night indicating that they are adapted to pollination by bats, which visit them for pollen and nectar.
The generic name Kigelia comes from the Mozambican name for sausage tree, ‘kigeli-keia’. Sausage trees are sacred to many African communities and are often protected when other forest trees are cut down. The tree is also cultivated in and around the villages of tropical Africa for medicinal purposes, as a healing agent for skin conditions. Today, beauty products and skin ointments are prepared from fruit extracts.
It is also widely grown as an ornamental in the tropics of all continents due to the attractive, maroon or dark red coloured flowers.
Elda Sousa (Official Tourist Guide)
Bibliography: Different sites in the internet
Photo Courtesy of Marla Castro