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Scientific name: Tabernaemontana elegans  

Family: Apocynaceae 

 

Common Names: Toad tree (Eng.); Laeveldse paddaboom (Afr.); umKhahlwana, umKhadlu (Zulu); Muchanga (Shona)

Dicoma capensis

Seeds and leaves of Tabernaemontana elegans

Description: Tabernaemontana elegans is a hardy, deciduous, unarmed shrub or tree mostly 1.5 to 5 m tall but occasionally reaching 12 m. The trunk is 50 to 300 mm thick with a corky, pale brown bark with longitudinal fissures. Twigs have prominent leaf scars that form transverse ridges.

Leaves are large, leathery, opposite and dark glossy green above and paler beneath. Leaf dimensions vary from 90 to 200 mm by 50 to 70 mm, and are generally 2 to 4 times as long as wide. The petioles are 10 to 25 mm long. The raised midrib and lateral nerves are particularly visible on the underside of the leaf.

 

Flowers are in clusters, sweetly scented, 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.

Flowering time: October to February.

Fruits : are large, borne in pairs, subglobose, with a green skin that is covered in pale warts. Each fruit is 60 to 70 mm long by 40 to 50 mm wide, with two lateral ridges and one dorsal ridge. The fruit are leathery to woody, with a wall that is 5 to 15 mm thick. When mature, they split open along one side, often while still on the tree, displaying the yellowish pulp inside.

Ecology: The yellow pulp from the fruit is eaten by people, monkeys, baboons, rhinoceroses, hornbills and white-eared barbets.

Origin: tropical east Africa through to South Africa and Swaziland.

Plant Uses: Apart from the yellow pulp being eaten on its own, the Zulu people add it to milk to speed up the curdling process. The seeds are also burnt, ground to a powder and mixed with tobacco for chewing or smoking. As a medicinal plant it has a variety of uses. The coagulated milky sap is used as a styptic, and root infusions are drunk as an aphrodisiac as well as a remedy for lung ailments and stomach ache. The seeds, stem, bark and roots are used for treating heart diseases. The powdered root bark or fruits are used to treat cancer.

Propagation: T. elegans is easily propagated from seed.

References

Palgrave, K.C. 1977 (3rd Edition). Trees of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town. Van Wyk, B. and van Wyk, P. 2009. Field guide to trees of Southern Africa. Struik Nature Publishers. Tabernaemontana elegans". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 2 August 2018

http://pza.sanbi.org/tabernaemontana-elegans