Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Sausage Tree


Obsession is a nice word to use when referring to our tot's fascination with seeds.  Since moving to Africa our little guy can think of hoarding nothing else.  African flora is full of seed pods, in all shapes and sizes: crescents, beebees, marbles, quarters, needles, the list never ends.  Meet Jonas' ultimate treat during our recent trip to Chirundu: a giant sausage tree, growing right in front of our cabin.


The sausage tree is quintessential Africa. Nick-named for its giant, sausage-shaped seed pods, the sausage tree is also known as the cucumber tree, and more properly, the Kigelia Tree.

The tree is covered by dark bell-shaped, maroon flowers, and is unique because the tree is evergreen where rainfall occurs throughout the year and deciduous in places experiencing long dry seasons (such as in Chirundu).  The tree is native to Africa, and is found only in a few other parts of the world due to import.


The “fruit” of the sausage tree is referred to as a “woody berry.” Our little guy and I cut one open after what seemed like eternal hacking with a cleaver.  Inside was a hard, solid, fibrous pulp holding small seeds.  Do not stand or park under a sausage tree. There is nothing dainty about these things. These sausage pods are so solid that I’m pretty sure many a coma has been induced by these puppies.  The thick crashing
sound of these falling in blowing wind was enough to wake us all at night.


Animals eating the woody berry disperse and plant these seeds during defecation.  The sausages are known to be valuable in African herbal medicine, and are prized for their use in skin care products, as well as for treatment of snakebites, rheumatism, syphilis, arthritis, tornadoes (yes, I typed that correctly), and evil spirits.

The fresh fruit is poisonous to humans but can be consumed after drying or roasting, or fermenting into an alcoholic beverage similar to beer.  The timber of the sausage tree is also good for a number of uses, including the carving of African canoes called makoros.

Jonas could not leave Chirundu without some souvenirs.  Another awesome seed pod for the collection!