Forest Tree Frog (Leptopelis natalensis)

View the above photo record (by A. Coetzer) in FrogMAP here.

Find the Forest Tree Frog in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Heleophrynidae

FOREST TREE FROG – Leptopelis natalensis

(Smith, 1894)

Identification

Adult:

Size: Attains 65mm.

Leptopelis natalensis has large, bulging, orange-red eyes with vertical pupils and a blunt, rounded snout. The tympanum (ear drum) is conspicuous..

Leptopelis natalensis – Green colour form
Near Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

The colouration and patterning varies. They are often plain lime green above but may also be pale brownish with emerald green bands and blotches. The emerald green markings have fine black outlines. Plain, pale brown specimens can also be found. The underparts are off-white, while the underside of the legs are yellowish.

The skin is slightly rough above and more granular below.

They have elongate arms and legs. The hands and feet are well developed. Fingers and toes are long and equiped with large terminal discs to enhance their climbing ability. The fingers on the forelimbs are unwebbed while the toes on the hindlimbs have ample webbing.

There is no clear sexual dimorphism but males are slightly smaller than females.

Tadpole:

Size: Up to 50mm.

Tadpoles of Leptopelis natalensis are elongate and slender with a somewhat flattened appearance. The overall colouration is brown with variable beige mottling. The tail is roughly twice as long as the body and the upper and lower fins are almost of equal length.

Habitat

The breeding and non-breeding habitat of this species is Coastal Forest, Sand Forest and Coastal Bushveld/Grassland in the Forest and Savanna biomes. L. natalensis is usually found near swamps or pans in fairly dense, indigenous forest, although it occasionally occurs in habitats similar to those inhabited by Hyperolius pickersgilli, such as stagnant water marshes.

Habitat – Coastal forest at Mtunzini, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett

Behaviour

Most breeding activity takes place in summer once the rainy season is well underway. Males usually begin calling at dusk from exposed positions up to 3 m above the ground in the foliage of trees and bushes close to, or overhanging, water. The females are usually much larger than males. Amplexus is axillary. Amplexing pairs move down to the ground where the female excavates a shallow burrow near the water’s edge in which c.200 light-yellow eggs are laid. The female fills the burrow, disguising its location with leaves and twigs (pers. obs). About 13 days later, the tadpoles leave the egg capsules and move towards the water with jumping and wriggling movements (Wager 1965). The remainder of larval development takes place in the usual way.

Predators are thought to include birds, snakes and terrapins, while prey usually consists of large flying insects such as noctuid moths.

Advertisement Call

This species has a loud and unmistakable call that consists of buzzing and quacking noises. Vocalising males are hard to locate.

Status and Conservation

The major threat to L. natalensis is habitat loss resulting from water drainage, invasions of alien plants, and afforestation. In several areas in KwaZulu-Natal, Eucalyptus plantations have lowered the water table to such a degree that many pans adjacent to coastal dune forest have completely disappeared.

L. natalensis occurs in several protected areas, for example, Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, Mkuze Game Reserve, Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, and Twinstreams-Mtunzini Natural Heritage Site. It is fairly common within its range, but local populations are probably quite small. The species does not appear to require any special conservation action at present.

Distribution

Leptopelis natalensis is endemic to KwaZulu-Natal and the northeastern part of Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. It occurs along the northeastern coast from Sodwana Bay (2732DA) in the north to Manubi (3228BB) in the south. The atlas data is accurate and reasonably complete.

Distribution of Leptopelis natalensis. Taken from the FrogMAP database as at September 2021.

Further Resources

Virtual Museum (FrogMAP > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name)

More common names: Natal Tree Frog (Alternative Common Name); Natalse Boompadda (Afrikaans)

Recommended citation format for this species text:

Bishop PJ, Tippett RM.  Forest Tree Frog Leptopelis natalensis. BDI, Cape Town.
Available online at http://thebdi.org/2021/09/27/forest-tree-frog-leptopelis-natalensis/

Recommended citation format: 

This species text has been updated and expanded from the text in the
2004 frog atlas. The reference to the text and the book are as follows:

Bishop PJ 2004 Leptopelis natalensis Forest Tree Frog. In Minter LR
et al 2004.

Minter LR, Burger M, Harrison JA, Braack HH, Bishop PJ, Kloepfer D (eds)
2004. Atlas and Red Data Book of  the Frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and
Swaziland. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and Avian Demography
Unit, Cape Town.

Ryan Tippett
Ryan Tippett
Ryan is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the Virtual Museum since 2014 and has currently submitted over 12,000 records. He is on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Ryan is a well-qualified and experienced Field Guide, and Guide Training Instructor. He has spent the last 18 years in the guiding and tourism industries. Ryan loves imparting his passion and knowledge onto others, and it is this that drew him into guide training in particular. Something that he finds incredibly rewarding is seeing how people he's had the privilege of teaching have developed and gone on to greater things. His interests are diverse and include Dragonflies, Birding, Arachnids, Amphibians, wild flowers and succulents, free diving and experiencing big game on foot. With this range of interests, there is always likely be something special just around the corner!