Family Hyperoliidae

Afrixalus fornasinii (Bianconi, 1849)

Greater Leaf-folding Frog, Fornasini’s Spiny Reed Frog, Groot-blaarvouendepadda (A)

By M. Pickersgill and P.J. Bishop

Currently accepted name: Afrixalus fornasinii (Bianconi, 1849)
Red listing status: Least Concern (2013)

Photo by Evans Nick, 2012. URL: FrogMAP: 573


This species occurs from the coast of southern Somalia southward through East Africa to Malawi, Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe. In the atlas region, A. fornasinii is recorded along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal as far south as Port Edward (3130AB). There are also two records from south of Komatipoort (2531DB) in Mpumalanga.

This relatively large, conspicuous frog is easily distinguished from the sympatric dwarf Afrixalus species, both morphologically and by its loud, distinctive call. The atlas data are reliable and reasonably complete.


During the breeding season, A. fornasinii inhabits more-or-less stagnant water bodies containing large stands of saw grass Cyperus immensus and bulrushes Typha latifolia in Coastal Bushveld-Grassland, a mosaic of vegetation types found from sea level to an altitude of 300 m.

Life history

In winter they have been found sheltering in the leaf axils of banana, arum lilies and Strelitzia, often a considerable distance from their breeding sites.

In South Africa, breeding begins in late September, and large choruses have been recorded in December and January (Wager 1965; Bishop 1994). During this period, A. fornasinii may occasionally be found in exposed positions on reeds and sedges near the breeding site in the early morning, but generally retires to denser shade in the heat of the day.

Males call from elevated positions on sturdy, broad-leaved vegetation. Calling begins shortly after sunset and continues until about 23:00, with the chorus reaching a peak at around 21:30 (Bishop 1994). Between 30 and 80 white eggs are deposited in longitudinally folded leaves up to 1 m above the water, and hatch after five days (Wager 1965; Schneichel and Schneider 1988). The tadpoles metamorphose about three months later.

Diet includes the eggs of other anurans, including Chiromantis xerampelina (A. fornasinii penetrate freshly built foam nests and take the eggs before the foam hardens to form an impenetrable crust; Drewes and Altig 1996). Spiders, dipterans, moths and other arthropods are also taken. The tadpoles of A. fornasinii are carnivorous and appear to specialize on mosquito larvae (M.P. pers. obs).


A. fornasinii is locally abundant and occurs in a number of coastal and lowland reserves such as those at Kosi Bay, Mkuze, False Bay, St Lucia and Mtunzini. The species does not appear to require conservation attention, although its habitat has undoubtedly shrunk as a result of coastal development.

Current distribution map

Undated records;  pre-1996;  1996 to 2002;  2003 to present


  • Web:
    FrogMAP. 2023. Afrixalus fornasinii (Bianconi, 1849). Animal Demography Unit. Accessed from; on 2023-12-01 09:12:30.
  • Book:
    Minter L.R., Burger M., Harrison J.A., Braack H.H., Bishop P.J. & Kloepfer D. (eds). 2004. Atlas and Red Data book of the frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. SI/MAB Series no. 9. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Published by the Smithsonian Institution and the Avian Demography Unit (now Animal Demography Unit).