Kigelia africana
Common Name: sausage tree 
Type: Tree
Family: Bignoniaceae
Native Range: Tropical Africa
Zone: 10 to 12
Height: 50.00 to 60.00 feet
Spread: 50.00 to 75.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Dark red
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zone 10 where it may be grown in moist, well-drained soils in full sun to light shade. Best with consistent water. Established trees have some drought tolerance. Marginally sub-tropical (can stand brief temperatures down to 28 degrees F).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Kigelia africana, commonly called sausage tree, is native to riverbanks, floodplains, open woodlands and savannas from sub-Saharan central Africa to South Africa. It typically grows to 50-60' tall with a stout trunk and rounded to spreading crown. Smooth, gray-brown bark may flake with age. Rough, pinnate-compound, yellowish-green leaves (to 8" long), with each leaf having 3-8 leaflets. Inflorescence is a pendant panicle (to 3-6' long) of wrinkled, bell-shaped, dark red flowers (5 lobes each). Flowers have abundant nectar and a fetid aroma. Flowers open at night and are pollinated by bats (sometimes also by hawk moths and birds). Flowers are followed by woody, gray-brown fruits (to 24" long, 4" diameter and 20+ pounds each) which look like very large sausages vertically suspended on long stems. Ripe and unripe fruits are poisonous (cause formation of blisters in mouth and on skin). Historically, parts of sausage tree have been used in a variety of applications including (a) herbal medicines for treating infections, wounds and digestive/respiratory problems, (b) treatment of ulcers, sores and syphilis, (c) skin ointments from fruit extracts, (d) yellow dye from the roots, (e) seeds are roasted and eaten in times of food shortage, (f) wood for shelving and fruit boxes, and (g) dugout canoes which are literally dug out from tree trunks (in Botswana the canoes are called makoros or mokoros).

Genus name comes from the kigeli-keia, the Mozambican name for sausage tree.

Specific epithet means of Africa.

Problems

No significant insect or disease problems. Large falling fruits can cause damage to people or cars.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, it can be grown as a shade tree or to stabilize riverbanks. Also is an attractive and unusual ornamental tree which is grown in tropical areas around the world for enjoyment of its night-blooming, cup-shaped, red flowers, its large sausage-like fruits and its spreading shape. It would be very difficult to grow in a tub as a houseplant.