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KIGELIA africana

Image of Kigelia africana

Forest & Kim Starr

Family

Bignoniaceae

Botanical Name

KIGELIA africana

Plant Common Name

Sausage Tree

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Drooping velvety dark red flowers that become long, heavy, sausage-shaped fruits are the foremost ornamental features of the sausage tree. This semi- to fully deciduous tree hails from a large range across central and eastern sub-Saharan Africa. It inhabits the dry woodlands and savannahs and typically becomes deciduous during the cool, dry winter season. Faster growing when young, sausage tree develops a dome-shaped canopy that is wide-spreading. The bark is thinly corky or platy and tan-gray.

New leaves emerge in the increasing warmth of spring. Branches hold a dense canopy of large, long, compound leaves. Each leaf comprises seven to 11 oblong, tough and leathery green leaflets. Any time of year, but when leaves are present, branches bear very long pendent clusters of nocturnally pungent flowers. Pollinated by bats, the flowers are crinkled, wide-opening trumpets. Blossom outsides are tan to ochre, but the throat is a rich, dark brick red. Afterward, inedible, seeded fruits develop and dangle from the cord-like stems in the canopy. These "sausages" may become quite large and heavy, as long as 3 feet (1 m) in length and weighing upward of 15 pounds (7.5 kg).

Grow a sausage tree in full sun in any fertile soil that retains moisture in the warm months. Don't plant it in soil that remains soggy or floods. It benefits from a layer of organic mulch over the root zone. Although it makes an impressive, extremely drought-tolerant specimen tree for a park or public open space, dropping flowers and fruits are problematic over roads, patios and sidewalks. The branching silhouette, flowers and fruits are conversation pieces and make this subtropical and tropic tree worth growing if climate and space allows. It should be grown more widely in mild winter regions where water conservation is highly regarded.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    9 - 12

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 12, 13, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    40'-52' / 12.2m - 15.8m

  • Width

    30'-80' / 9.1m - 24.4m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Eastern Africa, Middle Africa

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant

  • Habit

    Arching/Fountain-shaped

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Dark Red, Tan

  • Flower Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Fruit Color

    Tan

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Coarse

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Semi-Evergreen

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Platy

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No