Kigeli-Keia Tree

Sausage Tree (Genus: Kigelia)

Kigeli-Keia is also known as sausage or cucumber tree. In Ghana it is called Nufuten, though ‘Kigeli-keia’ comes from the Mozambique language. This interesting tree is called the sausage tree due to its sausage shape seed pods that grow up to10 cm in diameter and are 60 cm (2 feet) long. The fruit hangs from thick branches, falling between March and April, though the fruit can stay on the ground in the hard and weighty pods for several months.

Kigeli-Keia Tree
Kigeli-Keia (Genus: Kigelia)

This tree is very large, typically reaching heights of up to 20 meters. It has spreading branches, and the branches can be fairly thick. The bark is smooth and gray at first, and begins to peel as the tree ages. Then it becomes pale brown or yellowish. Beautiful crimson, red flowers appear in the spring, often lasting for two months. Sturdy twigs and branches give the Kigeli-Keia a stout appearance despite its lofty height.

Kigeli-Keia Tree
Blood Red Flowers of the Kigeli-Keia Tree

Habitat and Geographical Homes of the Kigeli-Keia Tree

The sausage tree grows in tropical countries of southern Africa, such as Kaingo and Mwamba, south eastern countries like Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and northward as far as Tanzania and westerly as far as Senegal. Occurring largely near rivers or streams so they have access to water, these trees are havens for insects that can be found near water. Flooding brings challenges to many plant life but it also brings with it alluvial soil, a type the sausage tree thrives on.

Kigeli-Keia Tree Map
Sausage Tree Map

Which Animals and Insects Are Attracted to Sausage Trees?

Many species love to hang out around this tree, and some eat its fruits. The flowers’ scent is most strong at night, suggesting that they are often pollinated by bats. But the flowers are open all day long, so they can be pollinated by other animals.

The sausage tree provides a trifecta of valuable food sources: spinach like leaves, luscious blood red flowers and fruit within the sausage shaped pods. Various birds, including brown-headed parrots, as well as many mammals eat the fruits. The seeds can then be stored in their poop, which is helpful for spreading them, especially with birds, as they can deposit the seeds a long way away. When the seed pods become to heavy for their pendulous stems the fruit fall to the floor providing sustenance for many mammals and birds.

Kigeli-Keia Tree
Sausage Tree Pod

The Sausage Tree in Gardens

Sausage trees can be grown in a garden, and many people like them for their unique look. However, their placement must be chosen carefully. Their long, heavy fruits can cause damage to people, cars, and structures when they fall. It should be noted the fruit of the sausage tree is poisonous to humans unless cooked, dried or turned into alcoholic drinks.

Fantastic Facts About The Sausage Tree

  • Its Arabic name is ‘abushutor’, which is translated as: ‘the father of kit bags.’
  • The flowers are highly scented at night which suggests the tree has adapted to target seed dispersal by nocturnal species such as the Dwarf Epauletted Fruitbat (Micropteropus pusillus).

Kigeli-Keia Tree in Literature

Different hues of green sedge, rich and resplendent offered no clues of the heat that scorched and sizzled the savannah unmercifully during the beginning of the autumn. Aside the swamp Monarch butterflies, swirled apricot and azure round flowers, of a kigeli-keia tree, or sausage tree. A pair of brown-headed parrots adorned with bright emerald belly feathers chirped merrily and chattered like best friends on a branch. Several brown seed pods, hung beneath them like long, rocking sausages, their cargos bulging, heavy and ripe.

E.G. Price, The Zambezi Allies

Q & A

Which animals feed on the sausage tree?

Zebras, baboons, hippos, giraffes and many vegetarians

Which animals eat the flowers of the Kigeli-Keia?

Antelope, baboons and zebras feed on the flowers.

Which animals eat the leaves of the Kigeli-Keia?

Elephants love the iron and magnesium rich leaves of the sausage tree.

What uses do humans use the sausage tree for?

Making instruments such as the xylophones.

What uses do humans use the fruit of the sausage tree for?

The fruit of the sausage tree contains an oil which is useful for firewood. The dried fruit is used as cream to make skin smooth.

How heavy are sausage seed pods of the sausage tree?

The seeds of the sausage tree are about 7 kg (15 pounds) in weight.

Which Kingdom does the sausage tree belong to?

The kigeli-keia tree belongs to the plantae Kingdom.

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