General Info

Tree is usually up to 7m high. The simple, opposite Leaves lack stipules. Bisexual, regular Flowers are small and lack petals. Calyx – absent, persistent Calyx covers Fruit. Seeds are tiny.



Dais cotinifolia.

RSA Tree No. 521.

Common names: Pompon tree, Basboom, Pincushion tree.

Family: Thymelaeaceae contains about 50 genera and about 900 species (9 genera and 192 species in southern Africa). The genera are mainly African. Plants are shrubs or small trees. Stems and branches have tough fibres. The small, simple and entire Leaves are opposite or alternate and lack stipules. Flowers are bisexual, usually regular and mostly insect pollinated. The Calyx is tubular or funnel-shaped and the Petals well developed or reduced to small fleshy glands or absent. Stamens usually equal to or twice the number of calyx lobes. The Anthers have 2 pollen sacs that open by lengthwise slits. There are sessile or on short thread-like Filaments. The superior Ovary has up to 2 locules – each with a single Ovule.

Name derivation: Dais – unlit torch – referring to the inflorescence shape in the bud. cotinifolia leaves like the smoketree (Cotinus species). Dais cotinifolia is the only species of the genus Dias in southern Africa.

Conservation Status: L C. (Least Concern). Bark harvesting may become a serious problem.

Tree is up to 7 to 12m high with a rounded Crown. There is usually a single main Stem which is slender and upright. The Bark has pale, corky and has lengthwise streaks. It is grey and is relatively smooth. Branches tend to be flattened at the nodes and are strong and tough.


Leaves are simple, opposite or scattered and usually occur near branch ends. In cold places the tree may be deciduous. Leaves are smooth, oblong-elliptic to obovate and usually up to 10 x 5cm but may be much bigger. The Apex may be round, bluntly or sharply pointed and the Base tapers. The Blade is hairless, initially light green but becoming darker and bluish and slightly waxy. The lower side remains lighter. The lateral Veins and the pale-yellow Midrib are translucent (photo 297). They are visible on both sides and are raised below. The Margin is entire (with a continuous margin, not in any way indented but may be hairy). The Petiole (leaf stalk) is yellow-green and short – up to 6mm. The Leaves age to a yellowish colour. Stipules (basal appendages of the petiole) are absent.


Flowers groups are pompom like – hence the common name. The inflorescence is a dense terminal head containing 20-60 flowers. Each inflorescence is subtended by an involucre of 2-6 strong green Bracts. The Peduncle (stalk of a flower cluster) is up to 8cm long (photo 277). The inflorescences may partly cover the tree with close, almost spherical groups of pale pink to slightly purple or even white flowers. Individual flowers are small, trumpet shaped, up to 4cm wide and up to 3cm long. They are bisexual and actinomorphic (regular, symmetrical. Perianth, the calyx and corolla, can be divided into 3 or more identical sectors). New inflorescence buds have been likened to lollypops. The Hypanthium (the cup-like receptacle derived usually from the fusion of floral envelopes and androecium, and on which are seemly borne calyx, corolla and stamens) has a Calyx of 5 petal-like lobes. Petals are absent. The 10 Stamens occur in 2 whorls of different lengths and are attached to the calyx tube. Anthers have 2 theca(pollen sacs) which are initially bright yellow. In order to release pollen they open lengthwise by slits. An unequal sided disc (a more or less fleshy or elevated development of the receptacle) is present. There is a single Pistil (a unit of the Gynoecium, the female element of the flower, composed of the Ovary, Style and Stigma). The sessile, superior Ovary and has a single Locule (compartment within an organ e.g. ovary) which contains a single ovule. The Style is thin and about 2cm long and protrudes beyond the Calyx tube. The Stigma is green, almost spherical and has glandular hairs attached. Untidy old brown flowers may remain on the trees until the next flowers appear. Flowering may last for 3 weeks. The tree is insect pollinated. (Nov-Feb).


Fruit is covered by a persistent Calyx tube with reddish-brown Bracts that darken with age. It is a very small, reddish brown nutlet (an indehiscent, 1-seeded hard bony fruit). The Seeds are tiny. (Jan-Apr).

Distribution & Ecology

The Trees are indigenous in the Free State, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and into Zimbabwe and Mozambique. They occur up to 1 800+m in cooler forest margins and steep, rocky mountainsides e.g. along the Drakensberg escarpment.


The Bark is strong, tough, elastic and is can be woven into rope and used for weaving. The tree can be grown from Seed and does best in full sun. It is fairly drought resistant and mature trees are frost resistant. The growth rate is about 1m per year and flowers may be produced after 2 years. This plant is now sold in most parts of the world. It has now been planted in public gardens in Canberra.


Boon, R. 2010. Pooley’s Trees of eastern South Africa. Flora and Fauna Publications Trust, Durban.

Coates Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa, edn 3. Struik, Cape Town.

Lawrence, G. H. M, 1951. Taxonomy of Vascular Plants, The Macmillan Company, New York. Tenth Printing 1965.

Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa, Balkema, Amsterdam, Cape Town.

Schmidt, S. Lotter, M. & McCleland, W. 2002. Trees and Shrubs of Mpumalanga and the Kruger National Park.

van Wyk, B. & van Wyk, P. 1997 Field guide to Trees of Southern Africa, Struik, Cape Town.