According to Flora Zambesiaca[FZ]
- Medium or large sized tree up to 25 m. tall.
- Leaves opposite or in whorls of 3, imparipinnate, crowded towards the tops of the branches; leaflets (1) 2–5-jugate, sessile or subsessile, except the terminal ones with petiolule (0.7)1–4(6.5) cm., long; leaflet lamina 3.5–17.5 (22.5) x 2.5–11 cm., ovate elliptic, obovate to rounded, apex obtuse, broadly tapering to rounded or retuse ana not so often apiculate, base rounded to cuneate, slightly to profoundly asymmetric except in the terminal leaflet which is asymmetric, glabrous to more or less hairy in both surfaces sometimes more roughly hairy in the superior one, papyraceous to coriaceous, margins entire, serrate or toothed and sometimes conspicously wavy; lateral nerves (4)6–13 pairs impressed above, prominent below, venation laxly reticulate; petiole (2)3.5–14(16) cm. long; rhachis 3–25 (29) cm. long, sulcate above, terete below.
- Flowers in pendulous very lax, terminal panicles, 30–100 (150) cm. long, longly pedunculate; pedicels 1–11 (13.5) cm. long, upcurved at the tip; bracts small lanceolate caducous.
- Calyx shortly tubular to campanulate, (1.7)2–4.3 cm. long, irregularly 4–5 lobed with the lobes up to 1 cm. long, ribbed, glabrous to sparsely puberlous outside, sometimes with irregularly scattered small glands.
- Corolla large, 6–12 cm. long, widely cup-shaped, at first yellowish, later becoming reddish to purplish, streaked darker inside and outside, glabrous except sometimes at the point where the filaments become free; limb bilabiate, the superior lip bilobed, the lower one 3-lobed and recurved, lobes more or less rounded; corolla tube cylindrical at the base and suddenly widening and incurving upwards.
- Stamen-filament 3.5–6.5 cm. long, adnate up to 1–2.5 cm. from the base of the corolla tube; anthers 7–13 mm. long; staminode rather large.
- Disk c. 1 cm. in diam. 2–3 mm. high, fleshy, irregularly lobed, sometimes almost truncate.
- Ovary 8–15 mm. long, cylindrical; style 4–7(8) cm. long, filiform.
- Fruit sausage-shaped up to 1 m. long and 18 cm. in diam., pendulous from a long peduncle, greyish-brown, lenticellate in the youth, massive, wood-walled, indehiscent.
- Seeds 10 x 7 mm. numerous, wingless, embedded in a fibrous pulp; testa coriaceous; cotyledons folded.
According to Kew Species Profiles[KSP]
- General Description
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.
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 bats.
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.
- Species Profile
Geography and distribution
The sausage tree is found across sub-Saharan tropical Africa and as far south as South Africa. It is cultivated in other tropical countries and is used as an ornamental tree in Australia, the USA and parts of South-East Asia.
Kigelia africana is a tree, 2.5-18 m tall, or sometimes a shrub 2-3 m tall. The bark is smooth and grey-brown in colour. The leaves are in groups of three at the ends of the branches and are 10-20 cm long with 3-8 leaflets. The inflorescence is a panicle, 30-80 cm long. The tubular flowers are dark red with yellow veins, and have an unpleasant smell. The fruits are sausage-shaped, 30-90 cm long and 7.5-10 cm in diameter.
The sausage tree is very variable in habit and leaf morphology. Trees growing in forests have larger leaflets than trees growing in open areas. It was once thought that there were ten different species of Kigelia, but botanists now recognise only one. In East Africa two subspecies are recognised, K. africana subsp. africanagrowing in grasslands and woodlands and K. africana subsp. moosa in tropical forests.
Threats and conservation
The sausage tree is widespread across tropical Africa. It is a sacred tree for many communities and is usually protected on farm lands when other tree species are cut down. In Malawi, Kigelia africana is now protected after many trees were cut down to make canoes.
Kigelia africana is an important tree for many people and has a wide range of uses and vernacular names.
Both ripe and unripe fruits are poisonous to humans but the fruits can be dried and fermented, and used along with the bark to enhance the flavour of traditional beers. The seeds are sometimes roasted and eaten in times of food shortage. The wood makes good quality timber for fences, planking, boxes and canoes.
Kigelia africana is a suitable tree for planting to stabilise riverbanks, while its broad canopy makes it a good shade tree in the open savanna. It is, however, not advisable to park a vehicle or to sit beneath a fruiting tree - the ‘sausages’ (fruits) can weigh up to 12 kg and can cause considerable damage when they fall!
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.
Two collections of sausage tree seeds are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.
For further information on Kigelia africana seeds see Kew's Seed Information Database
Sausage tree at Kew
The sausage tree can be seen growing in the Palm House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory.
Dried and spirit-preserved specimens of Kigelia africana are held in the Herbarium, one of the behind-the-scenes areas of Kew. Details, including images, of some of these specimens can be seen on-line in the Herbarium Catalogue.
Bark, fruits, seeds and wood from K. africana are also held in the Economic Botany Collection. These specimens are made available to researchers from around the world by appointment.
- Riverine forest, wooded grassland, savanna and forest margins.
- Least Concern (LC) in the Red List of South African Plants.
Both ripe and unripe fruits are toxic to humans and can also do considerable damage if they fall on vehicles or unsuspecting humans.
According to Project MGU – Useful Plants Project (UPP) database[UPPd]
- Nervous System Disorders
- A decoction from the bark is drunk to cure epilepsy Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition.
- Ill-Defined Symptoms
- A decoction from the bark is drunk to cure heacache Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition.
- Muscular-Skeletal System Disorders
- A decoction from the bark is drunk to cure rheumatism Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition.
- Infections & Infestations
- A decoction from the leaves is drunk to cure malaria Leaves - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition. A decoction from the bark is drunk to cure venereal disease Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition.
- Animal Disease Control - A bark and fruit decoction is given to calves for gastroenteritis Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition.
- Blood System Disorders
- Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: An Illustrated Guide
- Digestive System Disorders
- Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: An Illustrated Guide Fruits and bark may also be taken orally or as an enema for stomach ailments in children. Bark - Medicinal plants of South Africa Root decoction is used for gastrointestinal problems. Roots (incl. Rhizomes etc) - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition.
- Genitourinary System Disorders
- Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: An Illustrated Guide
- Bark - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: An Illustrated Guide
- Constructions Stems - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
- Live plant (in situ) - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
- Circulatory System Disorders
- Roasted leaf ash mixed with honey used for high blood pressure Leaves - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition.
- Pregnancy, Birth or Puerpuerium Disorders
- The plant is also known to be used for abortion Unspecified parts - Medicinal Plants of East Africa: Third Edition.
- Unspecified Animal Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
- Unspecified Medicinal Disorders
- Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
- Tannins Dyestuffs
- Unspecified Product Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping Other Products - Roots give a bright yellow dye. Roots (incl. Rhizomes etc) - People's plants: A guide to useful plants of Southern Africa
Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina, Burundi, Cameroon, Caprivi Strip, Central African Repu, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Gulf of Guinea Is., Ivory Coast, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe
Ecuador, Mexico Southwest
- Sausage tree
Kigelia africana (Lam.) Benth. appears in other Kew resources:
Herbarium Catalogue (53 records)
|Date Identified||Reference||Herbarium Specimen||Type Status|
|Nov 1, 2008||Onana, J.-M. , Cameroon||K000580298|
|Jan 1, 2008||Etuge, M. , Cameroon||K000437530|
|Jan 1, 2008||Etuge, M. , Cameroon||K000436152|
|Oct 1, 2005||Cheek, M. , Cameroon||K000338410|
|Dec 1, 2003||Zapfack, L. , Cameroon||K000746017|
|Dec 1, 2003||Ghogue, J.-P. , Cameroon||K000746018|
|Jul 1, 2001||Cheek, M. , Cameroon||K000108463|
|Jul 1, 2001||Ghogue, J.-P. , Cameroon||K000108465|
|Jul 1, 2001||Etuge, M. , Cameroon||K000108470|
|Jul 1, 2001||Cable, S. , Cameroon||K000108471|
|Jul 1, 2001||Lane, P. , Cameroon||K000108472|
|Jul 1, 2001||Elad, M. , Cameroon||K000108473|
|Jul 1, 2001||Groves, M. , Cameroon||K000108474|
|Jul 1, 2001||Kenfack, D. , Cameroon||K000108476|
|May 1, 1999||Onana, J.-M. , Cameroon||K000339225|
|Jan 1, 1999||Pollard, B.J. , Cameroon||K000339224|
|Jan 1, 1992||Wheatley, J.I. , Cameroon||K000518908|
|Jan 1, 1992||Wheatley, J.I. , Cameroon||K000518925|
|Jan 1, 1990||Manning, S.D. , Cameroon||K000029052|
|Jan 1, 1987||Manning, S.D. , Cameroon||K000029053|
|Jul 1, 1983||Welwitsch. , Angola||K000430450||Unknown type material|
|Jul 1, 1983||Welwitsch. , Angola||K000430451||Unknown type material|
|Jul 1, 1983||Welwitsch. , Angola||K000430452||Unknown type material|
|May 1, 1983||Allen, C.E.F. , Zimbabwe||K000430449||syntype|
|Jan 1, 1965||Grens, J. , Botswana||K000489226|
|Jan 1, 1960||Binuyo, A. [FHI 35083], Cameroon||K000029043|
|Jan 1, 1960||Binuyo, A. [FHI 35083], Cameroon||K000029044|
|Jan 1, 1960||Binuyo, A. [FHI 35083], Cameroon||K000029045|
|Jan 1, 1960||Hepper, F.N. , Cameroon||K000029046|
|Jan 1, 1960||Hepper, F.N. , Cameroon||K000029047|
|Chevalier, A. , Burkina Faso||K000386441|
|Chevalier, A. , Burkina Faso||K000386442|
|Chevalier, A. , Mali||K000386443|
|Chevalier, A. , Mali||K000386444|
|Chevalier, A. , Burkina Faso||K000386445|
|Chevalier, A. , Burkina Faso||K000386446|
|Laferrere, M. , Burkina Faso||K000386447|
|Faulkner, H. ||25772.000|
|Brown, R.C. , Botswana||K000511039|
|Brunt, M.A. , Cameroon||K000029042|
|Thompson, S.A. , Cameroon||K000029048|
|Thompson, S.A. , Cameroon||K000029049|
|Thomas, D.W. , Cameroon||K000029050|
|Nemba, J. , Cameroon||K000029051|
|Sabatier, M. [s.n.]||K000430380|
|Sabatier, M. [s.n.]||K000430381|
|Vogel , Ghana||K000430396||Unknown type material|
|Harvey, Y.B. , Cameroon||K000338857|
|Smith, P.A. , Botswana||K000489223|
|Biegel, H. , Botswana||K000489224|
|Grens, J. , Botswana||K000489225|
|Elffers, R. , Botswana||K000489227|
|Story, R. , Botswana||K000489228|
First published in Niger Fl.: 463 (1849)
-  (2010) Journal of East African Natural History 99: 129-226
-  (2010) Taxonomania. Revue de Taxonomie et de Nomenclature Botaniques 30: 1-307
-  (2009) Englera 29-1: 1-438
-  Mannheimer, C.A. & Curtis, B.A. (eds.) (2009) Le Roux and Müller's field guide to the trees and shrubs of Namibia , rev. ed.: 1-525. Macmillan Education Namibia, Windhoek.
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-  (1988) Flora Zambesiaca 8(3): 61-85. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
-  Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986) Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali . Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux.
-  (1985) Flore du Gabon 27: 19-56. Muséum National D'Histoire Naturelle, Paris.
-  Brunel, J.F., Hiepo, P. & Scholz, H. (eds.) (1984) Flore Analytique du Togo Phanérogames: 1-751. GTZ, Eschborn.
-  (1977) Flore d'Afrique Centrale (Zaïre - Rwanda - Burundi) . Jardin Botanique National de Belgique, Meise.
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-  (2003) Strelitzia 14: 312-313. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria. [Cited as Kigelia africana.]
-  (2000) Fieldiana Botany New Series , n.s., 41: 77-160. Field Museum of Natural History. [Cited as Kigelia pinnata.]
-  Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012) Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies) , ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
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-  People's plants: A guide to useful plants of Southern Africa
-  Kenya Trees, Shrubs and Lianas
-  Roodt, V. (1993). The Shell Guide to the Common Trees of the Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve. Shell, Gabarone.
-  (1990) Flora de Moçambique 120: 1-35. Instituto de Investigaçao Científuca Tropical.
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-  Burkill, H.M. (1985). The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa, Volume 1. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London.
-  (1984) Flore du Cameroun 27: 26-61. Ministère de l'enseignement supérieur et de la recherche scientifique (Mesres), Yaoundé.
-  (1977) Flora of Ecuador 7: 1-172. Botanical Institute, University of Göteborg, Riksmuseum, Stockholm.
-  Aubrév. Fl. For. C. Iv. ed. 2, 3: 242, t. 231
-  Harris, B. & Baker, H. (1958). Pollination in Kigelia africana. J. W. Afr. Sci. Assn. Vol. 4: No. 1.
-  Fl. For. Soud.-Guin. 484, t. 111
-  (1931) Flora of West Tropical Africa 2(1): 237-242
-  Chev. Bot. 487
-  F.T.A. 4, 2: 536
-  incl. var. aethiopica (Decne.) Aubrév. ex Sillans and var. elliptica (Sprague) R. Sillans in Not. Syst. 14: 324 (1853).
-  Sillans in Not. Syst. 14: 323 (1853)
-  in Fl. Nigrit. 463 (1849)
Flora of West Tropical Africa
International Plant Names Index
The International Plant Names Index (2016). Published on the Internet http://www.ipni.org
[D] © Copyright 2016 International Plant Names Index. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
Project MGU – Useful Plants Project (UPP) database
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
World Checklist of Selected Plant Families(2016). Published on the Internet http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
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Plants and People Africa
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