Found in a wide range of and habitats and altitudes, from nearly sea-level to about 2500 metres.

It grows in bushveld areas, often on termite mounds, as well as woodlands, forests, wooded grasslands and hillsides in Natal, Transkei, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, warmer parts of the Highveld and north of the Vaal river.

Also found in Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and further north into tropical Africa.

Dombeya rotundifolia

  • Wild-pear (E)
  • Common Wild-pear or Dombeya (E)
  • Drolpeer (A)
  • Gewone Drolpeer (A)
  • Dikbas (A)
  • “Bruidjie van die bosveld” (A)
  • iNhliziyonkhulu (Z)
  • mohlabaphala (NS)



  • A shapely, small to medium sized tree, usually with a single, well-defined, beautifully gnarled and craggy bole of dark brown, grooved bark, and a small, neat crown of elegantly rounded leaves that turn a striking golden or lemon yellow before falling in autumn. It is one of the first trees to flower after winter, often before the new leaves appear, and the clusters of white to pale rose-pink, pear-like blossoms are carried in such numbers that the entire tree is wreathed in a cloud of scented blossoms. The petals eventually fade to a lovely light hazel, with a papery texture, and persist on the tree for many months, with the small fruits forming and ripening while concealed within the old flowers.

SA Tree

  • 471


  • Malvaceae -formerly Sterculiaceae (The Hibiscus or Mallow family)
  • A family of flowering plants, belonging the order Malvales, with about 243 genera and somewhat 4200 species of trees, shrubs and herbs. Members can be found worldwide, with the exception of the very cold and arctic regions but are most common in the tropics. Many members are of significant economic importance, such as the cotton, okra and cacao. Genera belonging to this family include the Hibiscus, Sterculia, Dombeya, Pavonia and Sida.
  • Genera now included in Malvaceae were long thought to be very closely related, but, until DNA studies were done they were placed in different families. The circumscription of the Malvaceae is still very controversial and it must be pointed out that the relationships between these subfamilies are still either ill supported or almost completely ambiguous. The circumscription of the family may change dramatically as new studies are carried out.


  • Bark

    • Dark grey-brown, with a rough, somewhat corky texture.
    • On older trees, the bark develops deep longitudinal grooves, and often cracks into small block-like patterns.
    • The main stem is typically single and crooked, and young branches are thinly hairy, but soon become glabrous.


    • Deciduous

    • Simple, alternate or spirally arranged, broadly ovoid to semi-circular (30-150 mm diameter), thick, rough and leathery leaves, carried on new branchlets.

    • The leaves have a texture much like sandpaper on the upper surfaces, while below they have a layer of rather long, soft hairs, and slightly raised net veining.

    • Colouring is an even, dark-green, paler below, and the leaves are strongly 3-7 veined from the sometimes slightly lobed base.

    • The margin is almost entire to irregularly toothed, and tapers to a broadly narrow or rounded tip.

    • The petiole has a rough texture, and measures 60-80 mm.


    • The flowers (15–20 mm diameter), are typically white, less often pale-pink, and are carried in a many-flowered and branched flowerhead (70 x 60 mm), that grows from the leaf axils.
    • They are faintly sweetly-scented, and usually appear before the new leaves in spring.
    • The obliquely obovate petals eventually turn a light, cinnamon-brown colour, and persist on the tree for many months. (July – November).


    • A sub-globose, depressed capsule, 4–6 mm in diameter, containing 1-3 trigonous, brown and slightly wrinkled seeds.
    • The fruit itself is pale brown or cream to dark brown, and covered with a layer of fine, downy hairs.
    • It is usually enveloped by the persistent, dried out petals. (October-December).


    • 4-8 m


    • 3-5 m


    • Infusions and decoctions of the bark or wood are used in traditional medicine to treat intestinal ulcers, heart palpitations, (extracts contained cardiac glycosides), nausea in pregnant women, headaches, stomach ailments and fever, and are also said to hasten the onset of labour.
    • The roots are boiled in water, and this infusion is then used to treat colic, diarrhoea and other stomach problems, as well as rheumatism and syphilis.


    • The wood is bluish-grey, heavy, dense, very hard, extremely tough and cross-grained.
    • The freshly cut timber has a strong odour reminiscent of fishmeal.
    • During the era of wagons and carriages, the wood was in high demand, and today it is still used a general-purpose timber, but usage is rather limited as the pieces are usually too small and warped to be of significant value.
    • It is however termite proof, and is used for bows, implement handles, ornaments, small toys and carvings, as well as the occasional fence-post.
    • The inner bark is tough and fibrous, and a strong rope can be made from it. These strings are also occasionally used to bind dressings. The wood can be used for fuel.


    • This species is host to the scale insect Lecanodiaspis tarsalis, and the trees should regularly be checked for signs of infestation.


    • The flowers are rich in nectar and the trees are popular with beekeepers. It attracts butterflies, wasps, beetles and a host of other insect life, many of which take refuge in the thick, rough and deeply fissured bark.
    • The multitude of insect-life is known to attract Woodpeckers, who dig amongst the cracks for a tasty meal.
    • Many other insectivorous bird species will also be attracted to the trees.
    • It is the larval host plant to several butterfly and moth species.
    • The leaves are often browsed by game, elephants, numerous antelope species, as well as livestock.


    • A hardy tree that can withstand drought, frost, fire and windy conditions, as well as sandy soils, with a non-invasive root system.
    • It will flourish, whether planted in a restricted or a large area.
    • The tree can be used as a striking specimen tree as the blooms contrast sharply with the dark trunk and branches, creating a spectacular focal point in the garden.
    • It can also be utilised for street and park planting as it requires very little maintenance and is quite fast growing.
    • It makes a lovely bonsai specimen, developing the corky bark and reduced leaf size after 2 – 3 years.
    • The Wild pear has great ornamental value, even in difficult gardens, whilst attracting a myriad of insects and birds to your garden.


    • A relatively hardy tree, able to withstand hot dry conditions as well as several degrees of frost and strong coastal winds.
    • The trees prefer areas with summer rain and dry winters, and grow best in warmer regions, but can survive in colder areas provided they are planted in a sheltered position e.g. against a north facing wall or near other, larger trees.
    • The thickly corked bark forms a fire-resistant layer around the trunk.
    • They are relatively drought hardy.

    Growth Rate

    • A relatively fast grower, able to grow between 1 and 1.5 m per year under ideal conditions.


    • Prefers a sunny position but will tolerate semi-shady conditions.
    • At least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight per day is required, whether it is in the morning or late afternoon.

    Soil & Water

    • The trees prefer free-draining, slightly peaty or loamy soils, with a neutral pH, but will accept almost any type except very clay soils.
    • They have moderate water requirements, but young and unestablished plants should be watered regularly and deeply for at least the first 2-3 years.


    • Propagated from seed sown in spring.
    • Sow the seeds in a mixture of fine river and fertiliser, (2:1), then cover with an additional, thin layer of sand.
    • Place in a cool, semi-shady area and keep moist.
    • Germination typically occurs within 3-4 weeks.
    • Once the seedlings have developed their first true set of leaves, they can be transplanted into individual containers.
    • They should be given adequate protection from heat and direct sunlight until they are sufficiently hardened off.