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Kigelia africana (sausage tree)

The sausage tree is sacred to many African communities and has a wide variety of uses in traditional and Western medicine, including commercially available skin lotions.
The large sausage-shaped fruits of Kigelia africana

The large sausage-shaped fruits of Kigelia africana (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Kigelia africana (Lam.) Benth.

Common name: 

sausage tree

Conservation status: 

Least Concern (LC) in the Red List of South African Plants.


Riverine forest, wooded grassland, savanna and forest margins.

Key Uses: 

Food, medicine, timber.

Known hazards: 

Both ripe and unripe fruits are toxic to humans and can also do considerable damage if they fall on vehicles or unsuspecting humans.


Genus: Kigelia

About this species

Kigelia africana is an African tree, easily recognised due to the large sausage-shaped fruits hanging from its branches. The generic name Kigelia comes from the Mozambican name for sausage tree, 'kigeli-keia'. Sausage trees are sacred to many communities and are often protected when other forest trees are cut down. In Kenya, the Luo and Luhya people bury a fruit to symbolise the body of a lost person believed to be dead.

The flowers only open at night and are pollinated by bats and hawk-moths. They are dark red, which is unusual for a bat-pollinated species (bats are normally attracted to white flowers), but the strong unpleasant smell of the flowers is thought to attract the bats instead.

Every part of the tree is used in herbal medicines (eg for digestive and respiratory disorders, and to treat infections and wounds). The sausage tree is used in a variety of commercial applications to treat skin complaints. Research into its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-tumour activity is ongoing.


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