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National Trees: Tree of the Year

COMMON TREE OF THE YEAR : Dais Cotinifolia, Pompontree
RARE (UNCOMMON) TREE OF THE YEAR :  
 Peltophorum Africanum, African Wattle

Dais Cotinifolia, Pompontree

Dais Cotinifolia, Pompontree

Family: Thymelaeaceae
Common names: pompon tree, pincushion tree (Eng.), kannabas, speldekussing, basboom (Afr.), intozani (Xhosa); intozwane-emnyama (Zulu)
SA Tree No: 521

The pompon tree is one of the best known and well-loved indigenous trees, tough enough to be used as a street tree and small enough to fit into most gardens. When in flower at Christmas it looks like a giant candy floss, as the tree transforms into a cloud of soft pink balls. Its natural home is the eastern part of South Africa where it grows on the margins of forests, wooded hill slopes and in stony kloofs.

Description
Dais cotinifolia
 is a small tree growing only to 6 metres, with a lovely rounded, leafy crown. It can be single – or multi-stemmed, with the brown stems covered in small speckles of whitish cork. The smooth, simple leaves are bright green, sometimes with a slight bluish tinge on the upper side. The veins of the leaves are a translucent yellow colour, forming very clear patterns as they run through the leaves. The leaves are usually scattered up the branches or crowded at the ends of the branches. In very cold areas the trees are deciduous, but in warmer climates like Cape Town they only lose their leaves for a short time at the end of winter.

The trees flower in early summer, any time from November to December. In the city of Cape Town the street trees flower in November and in the more protected environment of Kirstenbosch, the trees only flower in December. The new flower buds look like lollypops, with big round heads on long thin stems at the end of the branches. The green heads pop open with the many small flowers in tight bunches inside, looking like pink fluff balls. For about three weeks the tree flowers in profusion. The tiny black seeds are formed in the bottom of the little flowers and are ready to collect about a month or two after flowering. After flowering, the green cup shaped bracts that held the flowers, become hard and brown, remaining on the tree for many months. These dried “flowers” can be used for decorations, model building and children’s games.

Conservation Status
Dais cotinifolia
 is not threatened.

Derivation of name and historical aspects
Eve Palmer  mentions the interesting fact that Linnaeus founded the genus Dais in 1764. In this genus there are only 2 species, Dais cotinifolia from South Africa and one other species from Madagascar. Dais means a torch in Greek, and the genus got its name from the resemblance of the stalk and bracts holding the flowers to a torch about to be lit. The leaves resemble those of another genus Cotinus, hence the species name cotinifolia.

Uses
Breaking a branch off this tree is quite difficult because the bark tears off in long strips, from which accounts for its common name, *Kannabas. This is a typical characteristic of the family Thymelaeaceae to which Dais belongs. Eve Palmer notes in her description of Dais cotinifolia that the Africans, who use the bark as thread or cord, say that it has the strongest fibre of any tree in KwaZulu-Natal.

Kannabas According to C A Smith in Common Names of S A Plants (1950) this name is incorrect and was the result of a confusion between Gonna and Kanna. “Kanna” is a Hottentot name for Sceletium (Kougoed), a succulent plant highly valued for its narcotic effect when chewed. “Gonna” is a collective name used by the Hottentots for several species of Thymeleaceae.

Growing Dais cotinifolia
This is a wonderful tree for the garden, fast growing, fairly drought resistant once established and frost hardy. When planting, choose a sunny position and prepare it well by digging a large hole of about 1 m x 1 m, adding lots of compost and bone meal. Water the young tree regularly during the summer months until it is well established, which usually takes about two years. Placing a thick mulch of compost around the base of the tree helps to prevent water from running away, keeps the soil moist and cool, suppresses weed growth and slowly releases nutrients into the soil.

The tree grows easily from seed and usually seeds itself all over the garden. Sow seed in spring or early summer in seed trays filled with a well-drained medium. Cover the seed lightly with fine milled bark or sand, place in a shady position and keep moist. To improve the germination, treat the seed with a fungicide that prevents damping off. The young seedling can be potted up as soon as they are big enough to handle. The trees grow fast and reach their full height within 4 to 5 years, flowering from about their second year. The trees can be lightly pruned if necessary, young trees becoming very bushy if the leader is trimmed. Flowers are produced on the previous year’s growth, so any pruning should be done after flowering.

Liesl van der Walt
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
November 2000

Sourcewww.pza.sanbi.org/dais-cotinifolia

Upcoming Tree of the Year 2023

YearCommon TreeRare (Uncommon) Tree
2000Peltophorum africanum African wattle, HuilboomSalix mucronata Safsaf willow, Kaapse wilger
2001Loxostylis alata Tarwood, TeerhoutPtaeroxylon obliquum Sneezewood, Nieshout
2002Pittosporum viridiflorum Cheesewood, KasuurAlberta magna Natal flame bush, Breekhout
2003Rhus chirendensis Red currant, BostaaibosPterocarpus angolensis Wild teak, Kiaat
2004Kirkia acuminata and K. wilmsii White seringa, Mountain seringa, Witsering, BergseringCombretum bracteosum Hiccup nut, Hikklimop
2005Schefflera umbellifera False cabbage tree, BasterkiepersolAdansonia digitata Baobab, Kremetart
2006Burchellia bubalina Wild pomegranate, WildegranaatRaphia australis Kosi palm, Kosipalm
2007Rhus pyroides Common wild currant, Gewone TaaibosPavetta schumanniana Poison Bride’s Bush Gifbruidbos
2008Harpephyllum caffrum Wild plum, WildepruiDiospyros whyteana Bladder -nut, Swartbas
Markhamia zanzibarica Bell bean tree, Klokkies-boontjieboom
2009Acacia galpinii Money thorn, Apiesdoring

Halleria lucida Tree fuchsia, Notsung
Pterocarpus rotundifolius Round-leaved Teak, Dopperkiaat

2010Acacia xanthophloea Fever tree, KoorsboomRothmania capensis Cape gardenia, Kaapse Katjiepiering
Rothmannia globosa
 Bell gardenia, Klokkies-Katjiepiering
Cladostemon kirkii Tonga-kerrie, Tongakierie
2011Pappea capensis Jacket-plum, Doppruim 

Genus Pavetta Bride’s Bushes, Bruidsbome
Nuxia congesta
 Common Wild Elder, Gewone wildevlier

2012Syzygium cordatum Water berry, Waterbessie

Protorhus longifolia Red Beech, Rooiboekenhout
Bruguiera gymnorrhiza Black Mangrove, Swart-wortelboom

2013Virgilia oroboides Blossom tree, KeurboomGrewia occidentalis Cross-berry, Kruisbessie
Barringtonia racemosa Powder-puff Tree, Poeierkwas-boom
2014Genus Heteropyxis Lavender trees, LaventelbomeVepris lanceolata White ironwood, Witysterhout
2015Combretum krausii Forest bushwilow, BosvaderlandswilgHeteromorpha arborescens Parsley tree, Wildepieterseliebos
2016Ficus thonningii Common wild fig, Gewone wildevyMaerua cafra Common bush-cherry, Gewone witbos
Maerua angolensis
 Bead-bean tree, Knoppiesboontjieboom
2017Ziziphus mucronata Hairy buffalo-thorn, Harige blinkblaar wag-n-bietjieEuclea pseudebenus Ebony tree, Ebbeboom
2018Genus Podocarpus Yellowwoods, Geelhoutbome
P. elongatusP. falcatusP. henkeliiP. latifolius
Boscia albitrunca Shepherd’s tree, Witgat
2019Sclerocarya birrea Marula MaroelaPhilenoptera violacea Apple-leaf, Appelblaar
2020Ekebergia capensis Cape ash, EssenhoutAdansonia digitata Baobab,Kremetart
2021Vachellia Karroo, Sweet ThornPortulacaria Afra, Spekboom
2022Dais Cotinifolia, PompontreePeltophorum Africanum, African Wattle
2023Buddleja Saligna, Olive SagewoodBolusanthus speciosus, Tree-wisteria
2024Searsia lancea, Karee
Searsia leptodictya, Mountain karee
Apodytes dimidiata subsp. dimidiata, Whitepear
2025Sideroxylon inerme subsp. inerme, White-milkwood
Mimusops caffra, Red milkwood
Spirostachys africana, Tamboti
2026Olea europaea subsp. africana, Wild OliveBerchemia zeyheri, Red Ivory
2027Dodonea Viscosa var. angustifolia, Narrow-leaved SandoliveCalodendron capense, Cape chestnut
2028Vachellia erioloba, Camel thorn
Senegalia galpinii, Monkey thorn
Erythrina lysistemon, Coral tree
2029Ilex mitis, African hollyAloidendron barberae, Tree aloe
2030Dombeya rotundifolia var. rotundifolia, WildpearBurkea africana, Wild-seringa
2031Combretum erythrophylum, River bushwillowFaurea saligna, Boekenhout
2032Cussonia spicata, cabbage-tree
Cussonia paniculata subsp. sinuata, Highveld cabbage-tree
Croton gratissimus var. gratissimus, Lavender Feverberry
2033Schotia brachypetala, Weeping boerbean
Schotia afra, Karoo boer-bean
Rhamnus prinoides, Glossy leaf
2034Faidherbia albida, AnatreeMillettia grandis, Umzimbeet
2035Diospyros whyteana, Bladdernut
Diospyros mespiliformis, Jackal berry
Maytenus acuminata, Silkybark
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