Roots 'n' Shoots: Amphibians - Garden Critter of the Month

Why is RnS Moving to

Google had brought out an algorithm update in May 2017. With previous updates like Panda or Penguin, Mr G had penalized blogs or websites with low quality content and those more focused on aggressive adverts (including multiple ads or pop-up ads in articles). However, many blogs/websites that weren't shady got penalized beyond recovery too and a lot of people lost their income. The May 2017 update has had wide-scale effect on blogs and websites, but without any explanation from Mr G as to why or what it does. RnS has been hit by it too and hard. RnS organic search stats (i.e. users from Google) have dropped by 75% since. Even though RnS is not a source of income, I tried to figure out why RnS is being culled. It seems that it doesn't really have anything to do with RnS per se, but likely because RnS is FREE and not paying for page ranking (via AdWords or Ad Ranking). Now it is likely being aggressively shoved to lower page rankings to accommodate the paid ads.

I cannot rely on Mr G anymore to get RnS' content where it is needed. So I am busy moving RnS to Wordpress where you can find me as Whisker Flowers @

I am also imposing 301 redirects from already moved posts and pages!

- The Shroom - (AKA Whisker Flowers)

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Amphibians - Garden Critter of the Month

Toads & Frogs at a glance

Value to Gardener:
4/5 - Pest Controller!
Danger to Humans:
0/5 - None
4/5 – They’ll arrive or you can buy some

Quick Intro

Amphibians include three lineages, salamanders, frogs & toads, and caecilians. They all share the characteristic moist skin and mostly four well developed limbs. They are mostly predators that prey on an assortment of insects and small vertebrates (mice and snakes). I will mostly be focusing on Toads and Frogs from the amphibians, as they more common in gardens.

African Bull Frogs
Pyxicephalus adspersus
Science Stuff

So, amphibians have four limbs (some salamanders and caecilians are limbless). All have moist scale less skin that is permeable to both gases and water. The skin contains many mucus glands to keep it moist and thus the skin is termed glandular. The skin allows cutaneous respiration, but this is generally passive. Compounds, such as sodium is actively transported through the skin – this regulates water uptake by terrestrial species. Most breathing is done by the gills (larvae) or lungs (adults). Amphibians can be both terrestrial and aquatic.

Salamaders (Urodeles) have similar body forms as lizards do, with stumpy noses and long tails. The aquatic salamanders are generally limbless. They either live in water bodies (lakes or rivers) or in caves. They catch their prey as frogs do, with a long sticky tongue. They are distributed throughout America, Europe and Asia, but not in Africa or Australia.

Photo: Wikipedia, Scott Camazine

Toads and frogs (Anurans) have stocky bodies and well developed limbs. Frogs have smooth skin, webbed feet, long slender hind legs (for swimming & jumping) and bulging eyes – they are generally aquatic. Toads have warty skin, robust bodies with stocky strong legs (for walking) and the characteristic large and easily seen parotid gland.

Frog vs Toad

Caecillians (Gymnophionans) are strange creatures that look like slimy snakes or huge earthworms. Terrestrial species hide underground and aquatic species are cave-dwelling. Their body form is adapted for burrowing (terrestrial, not necessarily blind) or living underwater (external feathery gills and nearly blind).

Photo: Wikipedia, Dawson

Frogs are mostly water-bound and will live happily in a pond, especially a pond with different water levels, some reeds, that kind of stuff. J

Although toads are terrestrial, they are still confined to moist microclimates (such as thick vegetation or in a pot that gets water daily J).


This be all little things that crawl, bite and creep at night. The problem is that it includes good and bad insects, but I have seen that my mantis stay clear of Fred (the residential garden toad J).

Caution Frogs Ahead!
Globally amphibians are suffering from extinctions and population collapse resulting in many species being placed on the Red List of Endangered/Threatened species. This is due to us reducing and intruding onto their homes – most populations are reduced by habitat loss, air and water pollution, and vehicular homicide! Yes, we drive over so many frogs and toads that this is more of an issue than any pesticide you use in your garden! That is why I make emergency stops when a toad hops in front of my car – note, I am still safe about this, won’t go causing accidents or anything J

So please mind the frogs and toads – the main reason why I was so happy to see Fred moving into the garden – Fred has a new friend now too! J it’s a small 5cm baby toad and seems to be of the same species… I hope Fred isn’t a cannibal, because the baby is still bite-sized…

Fred & Company

Fred is staying in the rose bush, where he/she? has hollowed out a hole to chill in, between the fallen leaves. Fred was very skittish at first, hopping away as if its life depended on it whenever we watered the rose. But now, Fred is quite accustomed to watering J The small one is either in the herbs, with the strawberries or under the beet leaves - I think it is checking out for some prime estate to move into.

Now I think I miss-identified Fred the first time (under my Garden Helpers page), as I assumed that all toads you find in SA (especially in your garden) would be the guttural toad (Bufo gutturalis). But after looking at all the photos on Google today (and my not-so-wonderful animal ID book) and remembering what the toads look like (as I have seen them a bit more recently) - I think that Fred is a Red toad (Schismaderma carens) – although Fred and the baby aren’t as red as some of the pictures J they're more pinkish, especially on the legs. From memory, they have that dorsal ridge running on the side of their body and the two spots on the back like the Red Toad. Also they aren't nearly as patterned as the Guttural Toad. I dunno, what do you say?

This is Fred, Guttural or Red Toad?
Wanted to get a better picture, but Fred's not home J

African red toad
Schismaderma carens
JMK Wikipedia
African common or Guttural toad,
Amietophrynus gutturalis,
Bufo gutturalis (prev),
Damien Boilley wikipedia

The mistaken identity of Fred the Toad J

Update 10 July 2013: Please note - the African guttural toad has been reclassified from previously Bufo gutturalis to Amietophrynus gutturalis. As usual, our University information is outdated, seems this has occurred somewhere in 2006-2007... grrr!

- Update April 2014 -

We have had many baby freds in the garden since. They seem to over-winter here and use the veg garden as a nursery. I found this one in one of our buckets, very happy with its pool of water.

Red Toad
Schismaderma carens


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