Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dais cotinifolia – Pompon tree

It is impossible to over emphasize the merits of the lovely Dais cotinifolia, one of our best loved indigenous trees. This wonderful small tree has a lovely, rounded, leafy crown and a neat upright growth habit. From November through December the pompon tree covers itself in a cloud of soft pink fluffballs, producing an absolutely unforgettable sight. These fast growing trees reach their full height in 4 – 5 years and begin flowering as early as the second year after planting. The flowers are produced on the previous year’s growth so if a very bushy tree is preferred, prune after flowering. In Cape Town this decorative tree only loses it’s leaves for a very short period at the end of winter but is deciduous in the very cold parts of the country.


Botanical Name: Dais cotinifolia
Common Name: Pompon tree
Genus: Thymelaeaceae
RSA National Tree No’: 521


April and May are the best months to plant trees in Cape Town as the wet winter conditions allows them to develop a sound root system enabling the trees to put out strong growth in spring. The Dais cotinifolia has to be one of the most rewarding indigenous trees, putting on a spectacular show for Christmas, exactly when everybody wants their garden looking it’s best. The lovely Pompon tree is small enough to be used in any setting where there is limited space being highly decorative as well as having a non invasive root system. The tree can be easily trimmed, allowing one to control the size where space is at a premium. In larger gardens Dais cotinifolia looks lovely planted on a lawn or even as a dense, decorative background in a large border. This versatile small tree is an excellent choice for patios as the roots do not damage paving and they can also be grown very successfully in containers. The pompon tree is even tough enough to be used in parks or as a street tree, in fact, this charming tree is versatile enough to be used for almost any landscaping application.


Height: 6m
Spread: 4m
Deciduous/Evergreen: Semi deciduous
Growth Habit: Dais cotinifolia occurs on forest margins, wooded slopes and stony kloofs in the south eastern parts of the country.
Bark: The tough, fibrous bark is greyish and covered in small speckles of whitish cork.
Foliage: The smooth, simple, oblong-elliptic leaves are dark green with a bluish tinge on the upper side. The veins are translucent yellow and are prominent on the underside of the leaf. The leaves are 30-60mm long and 25-35mm wide.
Flowers: The masses of 40mm, globose flower heads range in colour from pink to pale lilac. Each small flower is tubular, spreading into 5 narrow petals in front and with prominent golden yellow anthers.
Fruit: The fruit is a small nutlet concealed in the dry inflorescence bract.
Seed: The tiny black seeds can be collected about 2 months after flowering.


Growing regions: Dais cotinifolia is found growing wild from Mpumalanga right through the eastern side of South Africa to the Eastern Cape.
Growing conditions: To obtain the best results from the Pompon tree, plant it in a large hole 1m x 1m, to which plenty of good quality compost and some bonemeal has been added. Water regularly in summer for the first 2 years, until the tree is well established.
Best season: Summer
Hardiness: The lovely Dais cotinifolia is frost resistant and even fairly drought resistant once established.
Propagation: This tree is extremely easy to propagate from seed and wild shoots.
Growth rate: Fast


Aside from South Africa, Dais cotinifolia has been cultivated in European gardens from as far back as 1764. The bark of this tree contains tannin which was widely used by the Voortrekkers for tanning hides. The bark is strong and sinuous and has traditionally been used in rural areas to make a very strong thread as well as being stripped and plaited to make a good quality rope.

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