Potatoes grow on trees

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The campus of San Diego State University is just 1½ miles from me, which makes for a great walk or bike ride. However, once I get to the campus, I tend to wander around looking at buildings and plants.

There is a large Mediterranean Garden at the far north part of campus:

Mediterranean Garden on the campus of San Diego State University

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In the northwest corner of the garden is a sausage tree (Kigelia africana):

Sausage Tree on the campus of San Diego State University

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It’s an unassuming tree from a distance and doesn’t encourage one to go see it. However, if you do decide to go have a look at it, you’ll find big potato-like things hanging from the branches:

Sausage Tree on the campus of San Diego State University

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The sausage tree is native to tropical Africa. In addition to the one on the SDSU campus, there is one at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The Kigelia genus contains only one species, and you’re looking at pictures of it. Sausage trees can be both evergreen or deciduous, depending on the amount of rainfall. It is related to jacarandas and catalpas, and the flowers are extremely beautiful, large, and waxy:

Sausage Tree on the campus of San Diego State University

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The fruit, a woody berry (?), can be up to 3.3 feet long and 7 inches wide, and hang down on long, rope-like peduncles.

Sausage tree

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Inside the fruit are hundreds of seeds, and since the fruits can weigh up to 22 pounds, it’s probably not a good idea to park your car under it or walk around under it without a hardhat on since they do fall to the ground.

The fruit is supposedly a cure for rheumatism, evil spirits, syphilis, constipation (it’s a strong laxative) and, wait for it, tornadoes. The raw fruit is poisonous, but when dried, roasted, or fermented, it can be made into beer, skin care products, or eaten.

It’s called a sausage tree because the fruit looks like sausages. Well, not to me! I think they look like Russet potatoes. Compare:

Sausage TreeSausage tree

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Russet potato from last night’s supperRusset potatoes

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

What’s your opinion? Looks like a potato, right?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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10 thoughts on “Potatoes grow on trees

  1. Mags Corner

    What an interesting tree, have to agree those look like potatoes to me. Maybe they should call it a potato tree instead of a sausage tree. Russel you find the most interesting things to photograph and blog about. Hugs and nose kisses for you and sweet Zoey from me and mine.

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  2. Boomdeeadda

    Yep, (with toothpick in my lips) what you got there is a potato tree.

    A 22 pound bonk in the head could be the last potato tree you ever see too. Weird but wonderful at the same time.

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  3. Minuscule Moments

    I have not heard of this tree and I think yes they do look a bit like a pretend potato, I bet they don’t taste like one though, with all those seeds inside. I loved the photos what a beautiful tree even if its fruit is faking it.

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  4. Gallivanta

    Used to have one of these in the garden of my childhood home. I remember the sausages very well but had forgotten about the beautiful flower. I always used to think the sausages were more like beche de mer sea slugs.

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