Commonly known as the laeveldse paddaboom or toad tree, Tabernaemontana elegans is as noteworthy for its name as for its beauty. The large glossy leaves, the fragrant flowers and the strangely shaped fruit get forgotten before questions such as: Does it feed frogs? Does it bear frogs? Do they gather there? And more!
The toad tree grows in tropical East Africa Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and limited subtropical areas of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu-Natal. It grows in open grassland, scrub forest and riverine fringes. Where conditions are favourable, mostly relating to soil quality and water availability, it may reach 12 m in height. Away from watercourses the height is more likely to be around 5 m for a mature tree. Another species, T. ventricosa occurs in KwaZulu-Natal and to the north in Africa, while a third species, T. stapfiana is found in Zimbabwe (Coates Palgrave, 2002; www.plantzafrica.com).
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