This beautiful bushveld shrub or tree is most commonly encountered along riverbanks, in coastal forest and savanna woodlands.

An unusual name for an unusual tree with unusual fruit! The toad tree (Tabernaemontana elegans) is named for its large pods, borne in symmetrical pairs, which have a green, warty skin resembling that of a toad.

Mature fruits split open along one side, often while still on the tree, to display the yellowish pulp inside. It’s a treat for people, monkeys, baboons, rhinos, hornbills and white-eared barbets alike. The slimy pulp may be eaten on its own, or added to milk to speed up the curdling process. Embedded in the juicy pulp are numerous dark brown seeds, which are burnt or ground to a powder and then mixed with tobacco for chewing or smoking.

From October to February, large clusters of fragrant white flowers attract a variety of insects. Large, glossy leaves are characteristic of this small deciduous tree. The leaves are leathery, opposite, dark green above and paler beneath.

Traditional medicinal uses are wide ranging, including the treatment of fevers and stomach ache. Root infusions are drunk as an aphrodisiac. Being easy to work, the white wood is used to make spoons, knife handles, bows and arrows, and building poles.

Did you know?

All parts of the plant have a milky sap, hence it is one of the diverse plant genera commonly called ‘milkwood’. The sticky, milky latex is used as birdlime and as a glue for arrow heads.

Win the illustration

To stand a chance to win a certified print of the toad tree, simply answer the following question: When does the toad tree flower?

SMS Toad: answer and your valid Wild Card number to 33929. It costs R1.50 an SMS. Closing date: 31 October 2018. A winner will be selected by lucky draw.

Main picture by Bernard Dupont