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African sausage tree bearing 20-pound fruit

Sausage tree at Lincoln Park Conservatory
Sausage tree at Lincoln Park Conservatory
Photo from Lincoln Park Conservatory

A  "sausage tree"  from the southeastern Africa, is bearing 20-pound fruit at the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

 Located in the Palm House near the main entrance of the Conservatory at 2391 N. Stockton Drive., this tree’s unique fruits can weigh upwards of 20 pounds each, measuring as large as 2.5 feet in length and look like giant sausages hanging from long stalks.

“The Lincoln Park Conservatory’s plant collection features unique species of plants like the sausage tree so that visitors of all ages can discover a world outside of Chicago,” said Mary Eysenbach, Chicago Park District Director of Conservatories. “Virtually all continents from around the world are represented at either Lincoln Park or Garfield Park conservatories.”

Found on riverbanks, along streams, on floodplains, and open woodland, from KwaZulu-Natal to Tanzania, the sausage tree, also know as Kigelia africana , boasts flowers that are long, open, large, wrinkled, maroon or dark-red, trumpet-shaped that are velvety on the inside and virtually overflow with nectar. The tree’s short, squat trunk has light brown, sometimes flaky bark and supports a dense rounded to spreading crown of leathery, slightly glossy foliage. The huge, grey-brown fruits fruit from December to June.


In Malawi, roasted fruits from this tree are used to flavor beer and aid fermentation. The tough wood from this tree is used for shelving and fruit boxes and dugout canoes are made from the tree in Botswana and Zimbabwe. The roots yield a bright yellow dye. Traditional remedies prepared from crushed, dried or fresh fruits are used to deal with ulcers, sores and syphilis. The fruit has an antibacterial activity. Today, beauty products and skin ointments are prepared from the fruit extracts. The fresh fruit from this tree cannot be eaten because it is a strong purgative and causes blisters in the mouth and on the skin. Green fruits are said to be poisonous. In time of scarcity, seeds are roasted and eaten.

Experience nature inside the warmth of the Lincoln Park Conservatory,
2391 N. Stockton Drive, open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily.

 

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