Tabernaemontana elegans is a highly attractive small tree or shrub growing to a mature height of 1.5 to 15m depending on the growing conditions. This tree is popular for its warty fruits that resemble the toad’s skin. It is native to Somalia, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Although Tabernaemontana elegans is a common tree of riverine woodlands, it is also found growing naturally in bushlands usually in association Brachystegia species.
Leaves of this tree are leathery, glossy dark green with lateral veins on each side of the midrib. The corky, pale brown bark has longitudinal fissures while the twigs have prominent leaf scars that form transverse ridges. The toad tree bears countless white, fragrant flowers from early summer to late summer. After flowering, the fruit appears in pairs of beaked pods with a green skin that is covered in pale brown warts. This fruit is deemed a delicacy in parts of Africa.
The toad tree grows well in full sun and semi-shade conditions. Because of its corky bark, this tree is fire resistant. It requires a moderate amount of water and is resistant to light frost. This tree has also been reported to be medicinal, the stem, bark and roots are used for treating heart disease. In landscapes, the toad tree is usually grown for ornamental reasons. The root system of this tree is non-aggressive, hence its suitable for planting in pots along driveways and paved areas.