Worsboom or the Sausage Tree.

I went to a friend’s house party recently and when I was getting out of the car I saw these unusual but beautiful flowers hanging from a neighbors tree. As a flower freak I couldn’t help but to walk over and examine them more closely. They were large and a wonderful deep rose colour and also had a heavenly scent to them. As I was smelling and admiring these gorgeous flowers suddenly this “thing” hits me (grazes me, thankfully) and made me jump out of my skin when it hit the ground with a resounding THUD. In my hurry to view the flowers this tree produced, I neglected to notice (blind-o me) these huge two foot long and more “plus sized” fruit. As I was standing under the large canopy of this tree and looked up, I’m hit with an immediate urge to RUN. Hanging all over this tree up in the canopy are these giant “sausage” looking things. Fearing for my life, I grab the sausage on the ground beside me and walk over to my friends house. Inside, I see the tree owning neighbour, whom I had met at an earlier party, who saw the sausage in my hand. She smiles and walks over to me and asks about the fruit. I told her the damn thing almost killed me as I was admiring the flowers on her tree. She laughs and says that yes, you do need to be very careful while under her tree. She said that within the next few weeks when the fruit is ripe and starts to fall more often, they pound stakes in the ground and run yellow “Caution” tape around the perimeter of the tree to keep people out, to avoid any lawsuits. I asked her about the tree, and she said it was in the garden when they bought the house, but at the time it just looked like a normal shade tree. It wasn’t until a few years after owning the home did the tree maybe reach maturity and start to produce flowers and fruit. She didn’t know anything about the tree other than she said the local horticulture society said it might be a sausage tree. So of course, I had to find out more about the tree, since she let me keep the fruit.
The fruit I had was easy 2 feet long and almost 5-8 lbs. I let it sit on a shelf in my garage and the damn thing never rotted, it just shrunk and got wrinkled. I sliced it open and removed some of the many, many seeds it contained. I look forward to having my own sausage tree some day…Growing Kigelia Africana

The tree is easily propagated from fresh seed sown in river sand in September, or from truncheons. Protect young plants from frost. Plant in full sun, add lots of compost and mulch well. Water moderately. It is relatively pest-free.
Fast-growing and frost-tender, this tree has a rather invasive root system, so keep it clear of buildings, paving, pools, etc. Position it with care – a falling fruit can severely damage a parked vehicle! Despite this, it is said to be a popular shade and street tree in tropical Africa and Australia.I have seen them around but never really paid a lot of attention.It tolerates temperatures ranging from about 4°C to 40°C


The sausage tree, Kigelia Africana (or Kigelia Pinnata), belongs to the family Bignoniaceae. It is widespread across Africa and is found in wet savannah and riverine areas, where it occurs in abundance. Growing 23 metres high or more, it is semi-deciduous with grey-brown smooth bark. The tree draws its name from its unique sausage-shaped fruit, suspended from long stalks, sometimes over a metre in length and weighing as much as 10kg. The hard, grey fruit has a thin skin covering a firm, fibrous fruit pulp containing numerous small, unwinged seeds. Its velvety, bat-pollinated maroon coloured flowers reach up to 90cm in length.
Traditional uses

Kigelia has a long history of use by rural African communities, particularly for its medicinal properties. Most commonly, traditional healers have used the sausage tree to treat a wide range of skin ailments, from fungal infections, boils, psoriasis and eczema, through to the more serious diseases, such as leprosy, syphilis and skin cancer. It also has internal applications, including the treatment of dysentery, ringworm, tapeworm, post-partum haemorrhaging, malaria, diabetes, pneumonia and toothache. The Tonga women of the Zambezi valley regularly apply cosmetic preparations of kigelia fruit to their faces to ensure a blemish-free complexion. The fruit is a common ingredient in traditional beer, and is said to hasten the fermentation process. Kigelia leaves are an important livestock fodder, and the fruits are much prized by monkeys and elephants. Perhaps not surprisingly, given its suggestive shape, the fruit has also found traditional use as an aphrodisiac.
Known properties

A significant body of scientific literature and patents confirm the validity of many of the traditional uses of kigelia and suggest a number of new applications. Several papers support the use of kigelia fruit extract for treating skin cancer, whilst it has also found a market in Europe and the Far East as the active ingredient in skin tightening and breast firming formulations. Kigelia’s known chemical constituents include:

* Napthaquinones (including kigelinone)
* Fatty acids (including vernolic)
* Courmarins (including kigelin)
* Iridoids
* Caffeic acid
* Norviburtinal
* Sterols (including sitosterol and stigmasterol)
* Flavonoids (including luteolin and 6 hydroxyluteiolin)

The steroids are known to help a range of skin conditions, notably eczema, and the flavonoids have clear hygroscopic and fungicidal properties. Strong anecdotal evidence suggests that it is effective in the treatment of solar keratosis, skin cancer and Kaposi sarcoma, an HIV-related skin ailment. New research by PhytoTrade Africa has supported anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Product Format

* Sliced, dried, ground and sifted fruit pulp
* Oil bearing seed
* New solvent extracts of (1) above
* Super critical CO2 extracts of (1) and (2)

Suggested applications

Kigelia fruit pulp and extract can be exploited in the nutraceutical, dietary/herbal supplement, pharmaceutical, cosmeceutical and other markets. Some specific products ideas could include:

* COX1 and COX2 inhibitor and anti-inflammatory agent
* Anti-melanoma and after-sun applications
* Antioxidant agent
* Cosmetic skin tightening active ingredient
* Anti-viral agent
* Anti-malarial agent
* Anti-bacterial agent
* Anti-molluscidal agent

Selected references

Akunyili, D. and Houghton, P. (1993) Meroterpenoids and naphthaquinones from Kigelia pinnata. Phytochemistry, 32 (4): 1015-1018.

Bandyopadhyay, N. et al (1999) Chemotaxonomical study of some selected species of Bignoniaceae with reference to phenolic compounds. Journal of Hill Research, 12 (1): 5-10.

Binutu, O. et al (1996) Antibacterial and antifungal compounds from Kigelia pinnata. Planta Medica, 62: 352-353.

Grace, O. et al (2002) Antibacterial activity and isolation of active compounds from fruit of the traditional African medicinal tree Kigelia africana. South African Journal of Botany, 68 (2): 220-222.

Houghton, P. et al (1994) Activity of extracts of Kigelia pinnata against melanoma and renal carcinoma cell lines. Planta Medica, 60 (5): 430-433.

Khan, M. and Mlungwana, S., (1999) Short Report: ?-Sitosterol, a cytotoxic sterol from Markhamia zanzibarica and Kigelia africana. Fitoterapia, 70: 96-97.

Maisiri, M. and Gundidza, M., (1999) The effects of crude extracts of Kigelia africana and Aloe excelsa on deep wound healing. University of Zimbabwe, Harare. http://www.uz.ac.zw/medicine/pharmacy/pubs. 23/05/02.

Moideen, S. et al (1999) Activity of extracts and napthoquinones from Kigelia pinnata against Trypanosoma brucei brucei and Trypanosoma brucie rhodesiense. Planta Medica, 65: 536-540.

Weenen, H. et al (1990) Anti-malarial activity of Tanzanian medicinal plants. Planta Medica, 56: 368-370.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: