Kigelia africana, the sausage-tree, is a medium to large tree that reaches heights of about 25 m (SA Tree List No. 678). It grows in low altitude woodland and floodplains, occasionally on rocky slopes, becoming particularly large and imposing on river banks of the north-eastern parts of South Africa in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. Tropical Africa beyond the South African borders has a larger part of the distribution of the species, reaching as far as Sudan and Senegal.
The presence of the conspicuous sausage-like fruits hanging down from a tree ensures that every novice will identify K. africana correctly. Fortunately the fruits may be present almost throughout the year, although not all trees will have them.
The tree is a welcome sight to many for both beauty and usefulness. Game eat the still fresh flower remains that drop off within a day of opening, while porcupines, rhinos, monkeys and baboons count among the consumers of the fruit. The leaves are also browsed.
Traditional medicine has contrived a syphilis remedy from the unripe fruit, as well as treatments for a variety of skin disorders. The perennial search for beer ingredients has led to baking of the ripe fruit for obtaining a booster of beer fermentation. Roasted seeds are eaten during famine. Bear in mind that this same fruit is also poisonous! And remember to hang a sausage fruit in the house as a charm against whirlwinds (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Van Wyk and Van Wyk, 1997; Poynton, 1975).
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