• Toad tree (E)
  • Low-veld Toad tree (E)
  • Bushveld Toad tree (E)
  • Paddaboom (A)
  • Laeveldse Paddaboom (A)
  • umKhadlu (Z)




  • An unusual, but highly attractive, small to medium sized tree, with an upright, clean stem of beautiful ochre, deeply fissured bark, large clusters of sweetly scented, white flowers and peculiar, large, warty fruits that are said to resemble a toad’s skin. The tree tends to branch high up in an attractively forked habit, and the lustrous, sleek, dark-green foliage forms an elegantly curved crown. In autumn, the leaves turn a bright, almost canary yellow, illuminating the entire tree. The strange, citrussy fruits are considered a delicacy in some parts of Africa, and the tree has many medicinal uses


  • 644


  • Apocynaceae (Dogbane family)
  • A family of trees, shrubs, woody vines and herbs belonging to the order of Gentianales, with more than 400 genera and 4500 species, found primarily in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Many members possess a milky or watery latex, which is often poisonous, but is also used medicinally or as bird lime. Leaves are typically simple and opposite, or arranged in whorls of 3 or more, with smooth, entire margins. Flowers are small and grouped in clusters, rarely solitary, and the fruits are either berries or drupes, usually occurring in pairs but sometimes singly. Many members are highly decorative, such as the Frangipani and Impala Lily (Adenium multiflorum).


  • These trees are native to the warmer, eastern parts of Africa, from sea-level to elevations of about 1000 m. They are most often found growing along watercourses, in and along the margins of coastal forests, (riverine, scrub and evergreen), in open and wooded grassland, as well as bushveld and in rocky places. From Somalia, to Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and South Africa (Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and warmer parts of Gauteng).

Main Features


  • Very attractive, pale yellowish to creamy-grey brown, with a thick, corky texture. Large, deep, vertical cracks can clearly be seen, and the main stem is typically straight, branchless and rather robust, with a diameter of up to 300 mm. Branchlets are hairless, with tough, fibrous bark, conspicuous leaf scars and raised dots.


  • Deciduous

  • Large, simple and oppositely arranged leaves, often crowded towards the ends of branchlets. Oblong elliptic to narrowly elliptical (90-120 x 30-80 mm), with broadly tapering to rounded tips and narrow to rounded bases. Above, the leaves are dark-green and glossy, whilst below they are significantly paler, with 12-23 pairs of clearly visible, evenly spaced, yellowish lateral veins, on each side of the raised midrib. The margin is entire, faintly undulating, and the leaves have a thinly leathery, typically hairless texture. The leafstalk is thickset, and up to 250 mm long.


  • The inflorescence is a flat-topped cluster of individual, bisexual flowers (50–200 mm long), occurring in the forks or towards the ends of branchlets. The flowers are whitish to cream coloured, with a diameter of up to 250 mm, and the narrow, obliquely elliptical to slightly falcate petals (8-10 mm), have a conspicuous left twist. The flowers are sweetly scented. (September – March)


  • A pair of spreading, dehiscent pods, joined at the base only, and carried on drooping stalks. Each half is obliquely ovoid to half-round (60-70x 40-50 mm), dark grey-green and covered with numerous pale, grey, corky lenticels. The pods tend to split while still on the tree, and in doing so reveal a brilliant orange pulp, containing an abundance of small, brown seeds. The mature, shrivelled pods often remain on the tree until the next fruiting season. (February – August)


  • 3-12 m


  • 1-2.5 m



  • Numerous indole alkaloids have been isolated from the tree, and these have shown strong repressive actions against a range of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, as well as convulsant and respiration-stimulant activities. The seeds, roots and stem bark are used to treat heart disease and chest complaints, while the crushed root bark or parts of the fruit is used as a treatment against cancer. An antibacterial wound cleanser is made from the roots, and this concoction is also used as a remedy for pulmonary disease and chest ailments. A dilution of the roots is drunk as an emetic, and the ash of the burnt roots is taken internally to treat tuberculosis.


  • The wood is whitish, relatively soft and easily to work. It has been used to construct smaller implements and implement handles, kitchen utensils, bows and arrows, as well as pegs and yokes for animal enclosures. The timber has also been used as firewood. A sticky, rubber-like, milky latex is extracted, and has been used as bird lime or as an inferior glue, and when coagulated, this latex is also mixed with Vaseline and used to stop bleeding (styptic). The fruit pulp is added to milk to hasten the curdling process.


  • Due to the high presence of alkaloids, some toxic, in many parts of the plant, care should be taken when using or ingesting.



  • The flowers, leaves and fruit pulp are eaten by monkeys, while baboons, humans, rhino and various bird species are also known to readily devour the fleshy, energy-rich, brightly coloured tissue. The leaves are browsed by game and less often, livestock. The perfumed flowers in turn lure bees, wasps, butterflies and numerous insect species, which will then also attract certain insectivorous birds.


  • A most handsome and interesting tree for ornamental and smaller, frost-free gardens. It has a neat growth habit, and is not overly messy when in fruit, so it can be planted close to driveways and paving. It also does not have an aggressive root system, so it is safe to plant close to walls and other permanent structures. Planted as a single/focal specimen, it is sure to attract attention, and it is a beautiful addition to a rock garden. The trees will provide light, dapple shade, and due to their thick bark, they make an excellent firebreak if planted in rows.



  • The trees are highly resistant to fire damage due to their thick, corky bark, but can tolerate only mild frosts and are not suitable for very cold gardens (young and unestablished plants should always be sheltered from extreme cold and strong, biting winds). They are also not suited for very hot and dry areas and will only endure short periods of mild drought.


  • If given sufficient water and sunlight, the trees are relatively quick growing (400 – 850 mm per year).


  • Although a sunny position is preferred, Tabernaemontana can grow in semi shady areas, but development may be slightly hampered.


  • The trees are quite versatile with regards to soil needs, and are able to grow well in sandy, clay or loamy soil, with a neutral Ph. If planting in a very sandy area, added compost/fertiliser will benefit growth, and the trees have moderate to high water needs. In very hot areas, or during summer, extra water should be given, and in winter, when the trees are mostly dormant, less will be needed.


  • Easily propagated from fresh seeds. Sow the seeds in a mixture of fine river sand and fertiliser (2:1). Place in a warm, bright area (not direct sunlight), and keep the soil moist. Once the seedlings develop their first true leaves, they can be transplanted into the ground or bigger containers.