Skip to content

Plant of the month November 2017

Common Name: African Sausage Tree

Scientific Name: Kigelia africana (Lam.) Benth.

Family: Bignoniaceae




Kigelia – comes from the Mozambiquan word for the Sausage Tree, ‘kigeli-keia’. 


Africana – from Africa. 


Widespread across sub-Saharan Africa but its native range extends from Tanzania in the north to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa in the south, where it can grow to a height of 20 m.

Native Habitat

Open woodlands and moist places such as river banks.


Tree to 20 m high, evergreen where rainfall occurs throughout the year, but deciduous where there is a long dry season. Leaves are glossy, 20–30 cm long, pinnate with 3 to 9 leaflets and are arranged in whorls near the tips of the branches.

Flowers and Fruit

Flowers: Large (about 10 cm wide), bell-shaped, waxy and orange, blood-red to maroon in colour and open at night. They are produced in panicles which hang down from the branches on long, pendulous, rope-like stems 30–80 cm long. Individual flowers are orientated horizontally. They have an unpleasant, pungent scent like rotting meat and are rich in nectar.
Fruit: These remarkable, grey-brown sausage-shaped fruits give the tree its common name. They are woody, 30–60 cm long and weigh 5–10 kg. The pulp is fibrous and contains numerous seeds.
Fruits are poisonous to humans but are eaten by other mammals, including baboons, bush pigs, elephants, giraffe, hippos and monkeys. Seeds are dispersed in their dung.

Location in Garden

Lawn 28 near the Henry Lawson Gate.


The flowers are pollinated by the Dwarf Epauletted Fruit Bat in Africa. The large openings of the flowers and their position hanging below the foliage make for easy access by the bats attracted by the smell and reward of nectar.
The timber is used for dug-out canoes; mature fruit is used to ferment and flavour traditional African beer; roots produce a yellow dye and seeds are traditionally roasted and eaten. Traditional herbal medicines use powdered fruit to dress wounds, and green fruit as a poultice for syphilis and rheumatism.
Pharmacological researchers are investigating several interesting compounds with anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and cytotoxic activity isolated from the Sausage Tree. 

November Plant of the Month