Forestry in South Africa
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Trees of the Year : National Trees

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COMMON TREE OF THE YEAR : Dais Cotinifolia, Pompontree
Peltophorum Africanum, African Wattle


Dais Cotinifolia, Pompontree

Dais Cotinifolia

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.

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.

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


UPCOMING TREE OF THE YEAR 2023 - Buddleja Saligna, Olive Sagewood

COMMON TREE RARE (Uncommon) Tree
2000 Peltophorum africanum African wattle, Huilboom Salix mucronata Safsaf willow, Kaapse wilger
2001 Loxostylis alata Tarwood, Teerhout Ptaeroxylon obliquum Sneezewood, Nieshout
2002 Pittosporum viridiflorum Cheesewood, Kasuur Alberta magna Natal flame bush, Breekhout
2003 Rhus chirendensis Red currant, Bostaaibos Pterocarpus angolensis Wild teak, Kiaat
2004 Kirkia acuminata and K. wilmsii White seringa, Mountain seringa, Witsering, Bergsering Combretum bracteosum Hiccup nut, Hikklimop
Schefflera umbellifera False cabbage tree, Basterkiepersol Adansonia digitata Baobab, Kremetart
2006 Burchellia bubalina Wild pomegranate, Wildegranaat Raphia australis Kosi palm, Kosipalm
2007 Rhus pyroides Common wild currant, Gewone Taaibos Pavetta schumanniana Poison Bride's Bush Gifbruidbos
2008 Harpephyllum caffrum Wild plum, Wildeprui

Diospyros whyteana Bladder -nut, Swartbas
Markhamia zanzibarica Bell bean tree, Klokkies-boontjieboom

2009 Acacia galpinii Money thorn, Apiesdoring

Halleria lucida Tree fuchsia, Notsung

Pterocarpus rotundifolius Round-leaved Teak, Dopperkiaat

2010 Acacia xanthophloea Fever tree, Koorsboom

Rothmania capensis Cape gardenia, Kaapse Katjiepiering
Rothmannia globosa
Bell gardenia, Klokkies-Katjiepiering
Cladostemon kirkii Tonga-kerrie, Tongakierie


Pappea capensis Jacket-plum, Doppruim 

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

2012 Syzygium cordatum Water berry, Waterbessie

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

2013 Virgilia oroboides Blossom tree, Keurboom

Grewia occidentalis Cross-berry, Kruisbessie
Barringtonia racemosa Powder-puff Tree, Poeierkwas-boom

2014 Genus Heteropyxis Lavender trees, Laventelbome Vepris lanceolata White ironwood, Witysterhout
2015 Combretum krausii Forest bushwilow, Bosvaderlandswilg Heteromorpha arborescens Parsley tree, Wildepieterseliebos
2016 Ficus thonningii Common wild fig, Gewone wildevy Maerua cafra Common bush-cherry, Gewone witbos
Maerua angolensis
Bead-bean tree, Knoppiesboontjieboom
2017 Ziziphus mucronata Hairy buffalo-thorn, Harige blinkblaar wag-n-bietjie Euclea pseudebenus Ebony tree, Ebbeboom

Genus Podocarpus Yellowwoods, Geelhoutbome
P. elongatus, P. falcatus, P. henkelii, P. latifolius

Boscia albitrunca Shepherd's tree, Witgat
2019 Sclerocarya birrea Marula Maroela Philenoptera violacea Apple-leaf, Appelblaar
2020 Ekebergia capensis Cape ash, Essenhout Adansonia digitata Baobab,Kremetart
Vachellia Karroo, Sweet Thorn
Portulacaria Afra, Spekboom
2022 Dais Cotinifolia, Pompontree
Peltophorum Africanum, African Wattle
2023 Buddleja Saligna, Olive Sagewood
Bolusanthus speciosus, Tree-wisteria
Searsia lancea, Karee
Searsia leptodictya, Mountain karee
Apodytes dimidiata subsp. dimidiata, Whitepear
Sideroxylon inerme subsp. inerme, White-milkwood
Mimusops caffra, Red milkwood
Spirostachys africana, Tamboti
Olea europaea subsp. africana, Wild Olive
Berchemia zeyheri, Red Ivory
Dodonea Viscosa var. angustifolia, Narrow-leaved Sandolive
Calodendron capense, Cape chestnut
2028 Vachellia erioloba, Camel thorn
Senegalia galpinii, Monkey thorn
Erythrina lysistemon, Coral tree
Ilex mitis, African holly
Aloidendron barberae, Tree aloe
2030 Dombeya rotundifolia var. rotundifolia, Wildpear
Burkea africana, Wild-seringa
Combretum erythrophylum, River bushwillow
Faurea saligna, Boekenhout
Cussonia spicata, cabbage-tree
Cussonia paniculata subsp. sinuata, Highveld cabbage-tree
Croton gratissimus var. gratissimus, Lavender Feverberry
Schotia brachypetala, Weeping boerbean
Schotia afra, Karoo boer-bean
Rhamnus prinoides, Glossy leaf
Faidherbia albida, Anatree
Millettia grandis, Umzimbeet
Diospyros whyteana, Bladdernut
Diospyros mespiliformis, Jackal berry
Maytenus acuminata, Silkybark