Tabernaemontana elegans flowers are white to greenish cream with narrow green corolla tubes and five narrow, corolla lobes, spiralling anticlockwise or twisting to the left. The flower-heads are terminal or axillary, with large bracts among the flowers; the bracts fall early. The flowering season starts in spring and may last through autumn.
The bark of the tree becomes thick and corky and fissured longitudinally on old specimens. The colour is light brown to grey. Leaves are crowded at the branch tips, oblong to elliptic, leathery and darker green on the upper surface than below. Both ends of the leaf taper gradually, the margin is entire and the petiole is thick. Leaves and other parts of the tree exude milky latex.
The unusually shaped, large seeds occur in pairs, joined at the base. They are dark green, covered in pale grey warts. The fruit is woody or leathery with thick walls. It is this beak-shaped structure that resembles a frog and gives cause to the choice of the tree’s common name of toad tree. When the fruit ripens, it bursts open to reveal the bright orange pulp inside that envelopes the brown seeds. The gaping and shrivelled dry fruit shells remain on the tree into the new season (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.plantzafrica.com).