General Info

This Tree is usually up to 7m high.  Simple, opposite Leaves lack stipules.  Persistent inflorescence subtended by bracts. Small bisexual, regular Flowers.  Sepals resemble absent petals.  Tiny Seeds.


Dais cotinifolia.

RSA Tree No. 521.

Common names: Pompon tree, Basboom, Pincushion tree.

Family: Thymelaeaceae (Fibre-Bark and Gonna Family) contain about 50 genera and about 900 species.  The genera are mainly African.  There are 9 genera and 192 species in southern Africa).  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 are 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.  Filaments are sessile or are short and thread-like.  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 in the family Anacardiaceae). Dais cotinifolia is the only species of the genus Dias in southern Africa. The only other species occurs in Madagascar.

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


This attractive Tree is up to 7 and occasionally 12m high and has a rounded Crown.  Usually the single main Stem is slender and upright.  The grey and is relatively smooth Bark has pale, corky and has lengthwise streaks (photo 276).  The strong and tough Branches tend to be flattened at the nodes.


The simple, opposite or scattered Leaves are usually occur near branch ends.  In cold places, the tree may be deciduous.  The smooth, oblong-elliptic to obovate leaves are 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 hairless Blade is initially light green but becomes darker, 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 yellow-green Petiole (leaf stalk) is short – up to 6mm.  The Leaves age to a yellowish colour.  Stipules (basal appendages of the petiole) are absent.


Between 20 and 60 individual small trumpet shaped Flowers are contained in a dense terminal head.  Collectively this mass of flowers resembles a pompon (hence the common name).  Each inflorescence is subtended by an involucre of 2-6 strong, hard green Bracts. The Peduncle (stalk of a flower cluster) is up to 8cm long (photo 277).  The almost spherical inflorescences may be distinctly widespread on the tree.  Individual trees have the same coloured flowers.  These impressive flowers may be pale pink to slightly purple or even white.  Individual flowers are up to 3cm long.  They are bisexual and actinomorphic (Regular, symmetrical. The perianth, the calyx and corolla, are divisible into 3 or more identical sectors).  New inflorescence buds resemble 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.  The initially bright yellow Anthers are oblong and have 2 theca (pollen sacs) that are initially bright yellow to orange (photo 286).  The anthers protrude just above the tube.  In order to release pollen they open through lengthwise 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 relatively large, green and almost spherical Stigma has glandular hairs.  The stigma and style extend distinctively beyond the rest of the flower.  Flowering may last for 3 weeks.  The tree is insect pollinated.  Untidy old brown flowers may remain on the trees until the next flowering season. (Nov-Feb).


A persistent Calyx tube with reddish-brown Bracts that darken with age covers the Fruit.  It is a very small, reddish brown nutlet (an indehiscent, 1-seeded hard bony fruit).  The black, ovoid Seeds are tiny.  The testa (seed coat) is covered with small fleshy projections. (Jan-Apr).

Distribution & Ecology

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


The strong, tough elastic Bark 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.  The plant was introduced into Europe in 1764.  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.