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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Kigelia (from a native name). Bignoniaceae. About a dozen trees of Trop. Afr. (one extending into S. Afr.), remarkable for the long-hanging fls. and frs. Lvs. odd-pinnate: fls. orange or red, on long-peduncled lax panicles; calyx 2-5-lobed, campanulate; corolla broadly campanulate and narrowing below into a straight cylindrical or constricted tube, the limb 2- lipped; upper lip 2-lobed and nearly erect; lower lip deeply 3-lobed and deflexed; stamens 4, didynamous, somewhat or partially exserted; disk ring-like: fr. a cylindrical, indehiscent rough body, with a thick exterior and a fibrous pulp holding the seeds. K. pinnata, DC. (Fig. 2034), the "fetish-tree" and "sausage-tree,' is offered in S. Calif., and specimens may be expected in botanical collections in the W. Indies. It is native of the Mozambique district in Afr., where it makes a tree 20-50 ft. high, according to Sprague: lvs. ternate, the lfts. 7-9, efliptic-oblong or obovate and 3-6 in. long, serrate or entire, usually glabrous above but sometimes more or less pubescent beneath, the lateral lfts. sessile but the terminal one with a stalk several inches or a foot long: fls. claret-colored, with a corolla-tube to 3 in. long dilated at the mouth, and lobes to 2 1/2in. long: fr. 12-18 in. long, blunt, 5 in. diam., hanging on a peduncle or cord often several ft. long, making very striking objects. In parts of Afr. this tree, or possibly a related species, is said to be held sacred; and the fr., when cut and slightly roasted, is said to be used as outward applications in certain diseases. The tree is practically unknown in the U. S. G.C. III. .50, suppl. Aug. 12 (1911). L. H B.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Kigelia africana
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Kigelia africana
Kigelia africana
Plant Info
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Scientific classification
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Superorder: {{{superordo}}}
Order: Lamiales
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Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Bignoniaceae
Subfamily: {{{subfamilia}}}
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Genus: Kigelia
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Binomial name
Kigelia africana
(Lam.) Benth.
Trinomial name
Type Species

Kigelia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Bignoniaceae. The genus comprises only one species, Kigelia africana, which occurs throughout tropical Africa from Eritrea and Chad south to northern South Africa, and west to Senegal and Namibia.

The genus name comes from the Mozambican Bantu name, kigeli-keia, while the common name Sausage Tree refers to the long, sausage-like fruit. Its name in Afrikaans Worsboom also reflects this distinctive feature.

It is a tree growing up to 20 m tall. The bark is grey and smooth at first, peeling on older trees. It is evergreen where rainfall occurs throughout the year, but deciduous where there is a long dry season. The leaves are opposite or in whorls of three, 30–50 cm long, pinnate, with six to ten oval leaflets up to 20 cm long and 6 cm broad; the terminal leaflet can be either present or absent. The flowers (and later the fruit) hang down from branches on long flexible stems (2-6 metres long). Flowers are produced in panicles; they are bell-shaped (similar to those of the african tulip tree but darker and more waxy), orange to reddish or purplish green, and about 10 cm wide. Individual flowers do not hang down but are oriented horizontally. Some birds are attracted to these flowers and the strong stems of each flower make ideal footholds. Their scent is most notable at night indicating their reliance on pollination by bats, which visit them for pollen and nectar.

The fruit is a woody berry from 30–100 cm long and up to 18 cm broad; it weighs between 5–10 kg, and hang down on long, rope-like peduncles. The fruit pulp is fibrous and pulpy, and contains numerous seeds. It is eaten by several species of mammals, including Baboons, Bushpigs, Savannah Elephants, Giraffes, Hippopotami, monkeys, and porcupines. The seeds are dispersed in their dung. The seeds are also eaten by Brown Parrots and Brown-headed Parrots, and the foliage by elephants and Greater Kudu (Joffe 2003; del Hoyo et al. 1997). Introduced specimens in Australian parks are very popular with cockatoos.

Cultivation and uses

In African herbal medicine, the fruit is believed to be a cure for a wide range of ailments, from rheumatism, snakebites, evil spirits, syphilis, and even tornadoes (Watkins 1975). An alcoholic beverage similar to beer is also made from it. The fresh fruit is poisonous and strongly purgative; fruit are prepared for consumption by drying, roasting or fermentation (Joffe 2003; McBurney 2004).

It is also widely grown as an ornamental tree in tropical regions for its decorative flowers and unusual fruit. Planting sites should be selected carefully, as the falling fruit can cause serious injury to people, and damage vehicles parked under the trees.


Some synonyms are still accepted by a few horticulturists as distinct species, but botanical studies agree that the genus contains only one species (Joffe 2003, GRIN).

  • Bignonia africana Lam. (basionym)
    • Tecoma africana (Lam.) G.Don
  • Crescentia pinnata Jacq.
    • Kigelia pinnata (Jacq.) DC.
  • Kigelia abyssinica A.Rich.
  • Kigelia aethiopica Decne.



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