Posted by: ktzefr | March 7, 2013

Nightlife in the islands…bat watching!

I love nightlife in the islands, but not the kind that takes place in noisy, crowded clubs.  I prefer the sort of nightlife that happens in places where not much happens at all.  I’ll settle for starry skies.  Warm breezes through the palms.  A tropical mockingbird’s song.  Watching the bats congregate in the sausage trees.

The African Sausage tree (kigelia africana) is easily recognized as the fruit looks like enormous sausages that hang at the end of rope-like stalks from its branches.  This tree is sacred to many African communities and the trunks and big roots have been used for more than a thousand years to make canoes.  In the Virgin Islands the sausage trees grow amongst the palms and sea grapes.  They aren’t sacred here, but they are unique.   The fruit/sausages can grow to be more than a foot long and weigh up to fifteen pounds.   Locals warn against standing beneath them.

African Sausage Tree, US Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

African Sausage Tree, US Virgin Islands; Photo:KFawcett

At night the flowers bloom.  Sausage tree flowers are a deep blood-red and they also dangle, like the fruits, at the end of long stalks.   Bats love the nectar, and the trees depend on the bats and various insects for pollination.

A few years back we were staying at a place with a number of sausage trees in the garden and we heard a rustling in the branches above our heads one night when we were taking a walk after dinner.  The big flowers had opened and they were covered with bats.   Thereafter, bat watching became a regular after-dinner activity. 

Check out more images of the fruits and the flowers and the bats.  I have read that bats are attracted to the sausage trees because the fruits and/or flowers give off an odor that smells like mice, but I’m not sure this is true. 

Related Posts: Limin’ in the Virgin Islands


  1. My husband and I eat near one of these trees on campus and love it because it attracts so many hummingbirds. We never knew what it was called. Thank you for sharing!

    • Loni, I had no idea they also attracted hummingbirds. Next time in the islands I’ll have to check out the sausage trees during the day time. I love hummers.

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