Jasminum abyssinicum is a strong to slender woody climber in high-altitude montane forests, climbing into the forest canopy which stems that can be robust up to 13 cm in diameter. The leaves are opposite, trifoliolate; leaflets are broadly ovate with a distinct driptip, dark glossy green above, hairless except for pockets of hairs in the axils of the leaves. The flowers are produced at the ends twigs or in axils of leaves. The flowers are white, tinged with pink on the outside, sweetly scented with a corolla with 5 or sometimes 6 elliptic lobes. The fruits are a single- or bi-lobed berry 7 mm long, fleshy, glossy black.
Jasminum abyssinicum is native to Africa from Ethiopia to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It has been reported from Burundi, Cameroon, Rwanda, Congo-Kinshasa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Natal and Transvaal.
The Maasai people of Kenya use this plant as a medicinal remedy for wounds. It is also used as a traditional treatment for the parasitic nematode Hemonchus contortus in sheep.
The bole may be 60 cm wide, and is often fluted at the base. The smooth, grey bark is very lenticellate and exudes a cream-coloured latex when damaged. The yellowish to pinkish slash turns purple-red as it dries. They usually branch high up to form a small and loosely pyramidal crown with drooping twigs. Stipules of terminal buds eventually leave annular scars.
The glossy and very dark elliptic leaves have a prominent driptip, and measure up to 14 cm long. They are glossy below, and have two small lobes at the base.
The flowers appear in spring and are arranged in a whitish to mauve puff. The puff is about 1 cm in diameter, and consists of staminate male flowers and pistillate female flowers, without perianths, which obscure the view of the receptacle. The flowers protrude from the open apex of an urn-shaped receptacle which is about 1.5 cm long.
The fig-like fruit, embedded in the fleshy receptacles, are some 2 cm long. They are ellipsoidal in shape and hold a nutlet each. Ripe fruit have the appearance of blue plums.
The two species are distinguished on floral characteristics:
Trilepisium gymnandrum (Baker) J.Gerlach Silhouette Island, Seychelles
Trilepisium madagascariense DC. African mainland, Madagascar and Annobn island
The wood of T. madagascariense is suitable for furniture, and the sap yields a red dye. Its roasted seeds are eaten and it is sometimes cultivated. A methanol extract, fractions and isoliquiritigenin from T. madagascariense stem bark has been shown to possess antidiarrheal activities, and previously unknown trilepisflavan and trilepisuimic acid compounds were isolated from it in 2012.
T. madagascariense is a larval foodplant for the butterfly Cyrestis camillus sublineata. On the Seychelles the seeds are likely dispersed by frugivorous birds and fruit bats, but the pollinators are unknown.