Monday, August 9, 2010
Meet the Sausage Tree at Koko Crater
Keigela africana: otherwise known as the sausage tree. I've only seen the sausage tree in person once and that was in Hawaii at a quiet, hot, mysterious arboretum called Koko Crater Botanical Gardens on the island of Oahu not far from Waikiki-also home to an abundant assortment of fragrant plumeria trees (the flowers that your leis are made from) and an impressive, giant cactus garden the likes of which I've never seen anywhere. Koko Crater is on the east side of the island which is kickass hot in the summer and very dry so most of the plants and trees in this garden are from more arid tropical and subtropical regions. Don't wear flip flops here-there are thorns the size of fingers everywhere and ridiculously fast and aggressive centipedes.
The sausage tree is really impressive and funny the first time you come across it. The seed pods can weigh up to twenty pounds so beware of standing under it with your eyeballs wide. The flowers are a pretty sort of leathery hibiscus though I don't believe they were blooming at the time I was there. The "sausages" are not edible to humans however I've read that gorillas, giraffes and hippos like them though I'm not quite sure how the hippos reach them. Perhaps they just stand around and let them fall onto their heads.
If I could grow one in Portland would I? Yes, alas we are too rainy and cold for ye ole sausage tree. Maybe it's time for Portland to grow a giant specimen garden under a greenhouse so we can see more tropicals.