Dais cotonifolia in bloom

Common Names: Pompon tree, Pincushion tree (E), Kannabas, Speldekussing(A), nTozani (X); inTozwane-emnyama (Z)

In the Midlands, everyone knows that Spring has well and truly arrived when the pink blossoms of the Dais cotonifolia and the lime green leaves of the Celtis africana turn the forests into a glorious patchwork.

The Pompon tree is very popular with gardeners as it is just perfect for so many places. It is a small deciduous tree which is fast growing, frost hardy and fairly drought resistant once established. They look particularly good planted in a group to show off the grey bark - in much the same way as exotic silver birches are used - but they are equally lovely lining a driveway or as a feature in the bed near the birdbath.  First the beautiful new leaves appear, delicate green with plum coloured veins and are soon followed by the buds which are held upright on stalks at the ends of the branches. By November, the tree is covered in clusters of lovely pink flowers.  The flowers dry and the seed heads stay on the tree for a long time as the leaves turn yellow before falling in Autumn. Even the capsule which holds the seeds is attractive. It is a great addition to a bowl of pot pourri or would make a perfect hat for a pixie!  Dais is easy to grow from seed and grows rapidly, up to 1m a year in good conditions.

Traditionally the bark was stripped and used for rope, apparently it has the strongest fibre of any tree in KwaZulu-Natal. In Howick, Dais cotonifolia have been used as street trees, so if you can’t get to visit a patch of mist belt forest this spring, just take a stroll along Campbell Road or Philpott Street to admire them in full bloom. 

Click on any of the links below to see another Dargle wildflower