Monday, February 10, 2014

Beware the Sausage Tree!

Last Saturday we were in Piura visiting Maribel’s son Brian who attends the University of Piura. It was sort of a lazy afternoon…not too hot as Piura normally is. We were strolling on Ave. Grau and decided to sit on a tree-shaded bench…the very bench the women in the photo are occupying, to relax and do some people watching. I happened to glance overhead and saw what I first thought were bird nests hanging from the tree, but then released it was a fruit of some sort that I’d not seen before. Neither had Maribel or Brian. Being curious I asked a woman who had a kiosk nearby if she knew the name of the tree. She responded with "matacojudo" and started laughing. We got the same response from several other people. There is no good translation for matacojudo to English that I’m aware of. The closest I can come is ‘kills the idiot’, which has a connotation that Peruvians find funny. Later that night when we arrived back home Maribel Googled  matacojudo and had lots of hits – most of them humorous, but one of them led us to Kigelia Africana, also known as Kigelia pinnata also known as the sausage tree.

The tree is mostly associated with Africa though it’s cultivated as an ornamental tree in other tropical countries. The tree blossoms at night, with the brilliant red flowers falling off the next day. The uneatable fruit can reach a size of 2 feet in length and weigh 15 pounds. One article cautioned that care must be taken as to where the trees are planted because the falling fruit can be dangerous to people and vehicles (and apparently idiots), and that is exactly what the first woman we asked told us, though she added that the fruit falls “mostly during the winter” which in Piura is June through November, though the climate change is barely noticeable.

This is the only sausage tree we’ve seen in our travels. I’ve asked Brian to keep an eye on that tree. I’d like to be there when that fruit starts falling. Matacojudo could provide some interesting entertainment. 

1 comment:

  1. I've noticed trees are painted white on the lower trunk.

    Is that some kind of pesticide applied to the tree?
    Or is it done for aesthetic purposes?