Kigelia africana

Botanical name

Kigelia africana

Other names

Sausage tree; worsboom (Afrikaans); umvunguta (Zulu)




A medium to large deciduous (in dry climates) tree of up to 25 m with a rounded to spreading crown

Description of stem

Brown or grey, rough, may be flaky in older trees

Description of leaves

Leathery, opposite or in whorls, compound along a single axis with a terminal leaflet (or imparipinnate), clustering towards the ends of twigs; leaflets oblong, hairy, yellowish green above, paler below, margins usually entire or slightly scalloped

Description of flowers

Large asymmetric, maroon, cup-shaped flowers with five velvety recurving and wrinkled petal lobes, asymmetric, hanging in long sprays, sometimes nearly a meter long; contains much nectar and give off an unpleasant odour; the flower usually lasts for a day only, only one per spray succeeds in being fertilised; flowering time is spring; pollination is said to be done by bats

Desciption of seed/fruit

Conspicuous oblong, grey fruit, resembling a huge sausage hangs down from long, rope-like peduncles; usually 50 cm long and nearly 20 cm wide; noticeable lenticels are spread along the surface; the unripe fruit may weigh 10 kg and contains a fibrous pulp holding many seeds

Description of roots




Propagation and cultivation

Grows from seed or truncheons; water well and plant in warmer climates


Frost sensitive


Flowers and the fruits are eaten by game when they drop from the tree; a very suitable tree for large gardens and parks; the fruit is said to yield a medicine for stomach complaints, rheumatism and syphilis; the seeds are sometimes eaten by people in times of shortage and used in beer fermentation; a skin care gel is marketed for conditions including psoriasis and eczema; dugout canoes (makoros) are made of the trunk as the wood is said not to crack easily; the roots are reported to yield a yellow dye

Ecological rarity

Not threatened

Pests and diseases



Established in places like Oudtshoorn (in spite of the winter temperatures), Rio de Janeiro, Panama, California, Hawaii and India


Open woodland, river banks

Distribution (SA provinces)

Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo


South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea

Kigelia africana