This tree (Kigelia africana) is found across tropical Africa, and produces long, gourd-like hard fruits, giving it the common name sausage tree. The large dark-red flowers open at night, attracting bats and hawk-moths, which pollinate the tree.
The large, dark-red flowers of the sausage tree hang from their own stems and are popular with birds, who feed on the large amounts of nectar they contain. The trees are pollinated by bats and hawk-moths when their flowers open at night.
The long, heavy fruits of the sausage tree can be up to 90 cm in length and 12 kg in weight. They are very fibrous and sometimes used as a purgative in local medicines. Both ripe and unripe fruits are toxic to humans. The fruits of this tree can also do considerable damage if they fall on vehicles or unsuspecting passersby!
Kigelia africana 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.
The wood of the tree also provides good quality timber for fences, planking, boxes and canoes. Sausage trees are also planted on riverbanks to stabilise them, whilst out in the open savanna their broad canopies make them a useful shade tree as well.
This plant species is a sacred tree for many communities in Africa and is usually protected on farm lands when other trees are cut down. In Malawi for instance, the sausage tree is now protected, although many were felled previously to make canoes.