082 775 1224 / kerryn@cjmgrowers.co.za

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Trees, Shrubs, Aloes, Grasses and Ground Covers.

Dais cotinifolia – Pom-Pom Tree

BOTANICAL: Dias cotinifolia
COMMON NAME: Pom-Pom tree / Pincushion tree / African button flower
OTHER NAMES: Kannabas / Speldekussing / Basboom (Afr); inTozane-emnyama (Zulu); inTozane (Xhosa)

SA TREE NO: 521

FAMILY: Thymelaeaceae (Dais & Gonna family)

An extremely cosmopolitan family of trees, shrubs and a few vines and herbaceous plants, consisting of about 50 genera and 898 species, found worldwide, but occurs predominantly in warmer zones, from Africa, where it best represented, to Australia and a few Mediterranean countries. This family belongs to the order of Malvales, several members of which have great economical importance. Members usually have tough, fibrous bark, with twigs that are markedly flexible, leaves that are opposite, often covered in fine, silky hairs, and flowers that grow in dense heads. The sepals (small part of the flower, usually green, they function as protection for the flower in bud, and often as support for the petals when in bloom) often resemble petals. Fruits are typically berries or capsules, with seeds covered in a fleshy appendage, and some species have been known to emit an unpleasant odour.

BASIC OVERVIEW

One of most prolific flowering indigenous trees, with the entire tree being transformed into a giant pink candy-floss during spring. Normally growing as a neat, slender, medium to small sized tree, with decorative, almost luminous, blueish-green leaves, a lovely, leafy, rounded crown and a willowy, upright form, often multi-stemmed. Hardy and wonderfully ornamental, it has been cultivated in Europe since the early 1700’s. The name Dias means “torch” in Greek, and refers to the layout of the flowers.

  • HABITAT: Its natural habitat is mainly along the Eastern coastline of SA, where it grows along forest margins and streams/rivers, in sheltered grassland areas, woody hill slopes and in the surrounding thicket of rocky outcrops. Occurs from the dry bushveld to the mist belt in Natal, to Zimbabwe.

  • DECIDUOUS/EVERGREEN: Semi/ briefly-deciduous. In warmer areas it might retain all its foliage, whereas in colder zones it may lose its leaves only for a short time in winter.

  • BARK: Smooth, grey-brown bark, often streaked with pale, slightly raised corky speckles. The branchlets are heavily fibrous, and if one tries to break off a twig, the tough bark will often strip down to the stem. Branchlets are often flattened at the nodes.

  • FOLIAGE: Simple, oppositely occurring leaves, oblong-elliptic in shape, measuring 70-90 x 35-50 mm. Dark, dull green above, with a blueish silver tinge, and paler, light-green below. More or less hairless, with a slightly waxy texture, margins that are entire and somewhat rolled under, and translucent yellow, often raised midribs and side veins on both surfaces that form strikingly clear and attractive patterns on the leaves. When held to sunlight, the leaves often appear illuminated. The petiole is up to 5mm long. Lightly fragranced.

  • FLOWERS: Globose, sub spherical flowerheads, with diameters of up to 40mm, consisting of individual, mauve, pink to pale lilac-pink tubular blooms, (each up to 30mm long), with 5 narrow petals in front, and prominent yellow anthers. The heads are produced in profusion, usually from November to February, and at the base of these is typically 4 large, shield-like bracts, which become woody and persist on the tree until the next flowering period.

  • FRUIT: A small, reddish-brown nutlet, usually encircled by the shrivelled up remains of the flower tube, concealed within the dry flower bracts, which are often still pink-hued. (January to April)

  • SEED: Small black seeds, with a crustaceous seed coat. Can be collected after 2 months from flowering.

LANDSCAPING DETAILS

  • HEIGHT: Usually 2 -7 m, but can reach up to 13m.

  • SPREAD: 1-4 m

  • TOLERANCE: Although their preferred habitat is in warmer areas, they can endure fairly severe frost, especially in the Highveld regions of SA, provided they are given adequate protection during the first two years. Once established, they can tolerate periods of light drought.

  • GROWTH RATE: Very fast growing, reaching full height in only 4-5 years.

  • LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS: Prefers full sun, but will tolerate partial shade.

  • SOIL AND WATER REQUIREMENTS: Loamy or sandy soil, well-drained, with a neutral Ph. To encourage quick and lush growth, plant in a deep hole filled with compost, add bone meal, and water regularly for the first 2-3 years.

  • ADVANTAGES: Extremely attractive small tree. Has a non-aggressive root system, so it can be planted in neat rows next to driveways, or near walls and other permeant structures. Relatively low-maintenance, and does not get too big, so it is suited for small gardens or big containers. Planted in the centre of a lawn, it makes for a very attractive and neat feature plant, especially in spring, when the entire tree gets covered in pink blooms. The dazzling flower display lasts for up to 3 weeks, and the tree will flower when young, often in its second year.

  • WARNINGS: Does not take well to being transplanted, and once fixed, the roots must not be disturbed. Also, the trees seem to suffer a bit in too high temperatures, prefers areas with a winter rainfall. The trees are also susceptible to pink disease, caused by the bacteria Corticium salmonicolor, and this can be diagnosed by branch and stem die-back, the most obvious signs being gum exudation, extreme cracking and peeling of the bark, and abundant pink growths.

  • WILDLIFE: The flowers attract many butterfly species, honeybees and insects.

  • PROPAGATION: Sow seeds into individual seedling trays, filled with a well-drained growing medium of river sand and compost, (1:2) and place in a shady position, Sow seed in spring or early summer. Cover the seed lightly with fine pounded bark or sand, and keep moist. To improve the germination, treat the seed with a fungicide that prevents damping off. Can also be propagated easily from cuttings placed firmly into a similar medium, and water well. When planting a young tree, choose a sunny position and prepare it well by digging a large hole, adding lots of fertilizer and bone meal. Water the young tree frequently during the warm summer months until it is well established. Placing a thick mulch around the base of the tree helps to prevent water from running away, keeps the soil moist for longer, and cool, lessens weed growth and slowly releases nutrients into the soil.

  • MEDICINAL: A infusion of the leaf is drunk to treat stomach pains and cramps.

  • PRACTICAL: The tough, fibrous bark is often stripped, and then plaited into a strong, good quality rope. It is also used for weaving, and makes good whips and quality binding. The Bantu people of South Africa used the twiny bark to tie down thatch on their huts, and the early European settlers used the bark for tanning leather.

  • ADDITIONAL FACTS: in the wild, the trees are often heavily mutilated or completely destroyed for their fibrous bark.

 

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