Botanical Buzz | There could be only one?

Dais cotinifolia (Pompon tree), from deepest Africa also has its roots set firlmly in Dubbo. Photo: CONTRIBUTED
Dais cotinifolia (Pompon tree), from deepest Africa also has its roots set firlmly in Dubbo. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

I thought we didn’t have one. There is only the one, but worth it just the same. By association a plant family group shares similarities. The family in question is Thymelaeaceae: some mouthful, eh? They are mostly shrubs in temperate and subtropical regions.

Many have tough, fibrous bark from which strong papers like airmail paper can be made. The most familiar are small plants with attractive flowers.

Consider the waxy, white, pink or red flowers of Daphne from China and Japan. How about the Australian Pimelia (Rice flower), with cream, yellow, or pink blossoms. They are all in the same family.

However, the plant I’m talking about is a small tree. It likes adequate summer water, free drainage, light fertile soil, and full to part-sun away from annoying winds. As it also doesn’t like extreme cold I’m starting to think it is an organism after my own heart. But I don’t think you’ll guess what it is. A bit of a rare one for our area.

The tree comes from South and Eastern Africa and over into Madagascar. It flowers in spring to summer. It may need a prune back when the pretty blossom finishes. This will compact the growth so it isn’t straggly.

I’d better give you the name: Dais cotinifolia or Pompon tree. Are you none the wiser? Never mind, as it was picked for its rarity. It grows 6 metres by 6 metres wide with round heads of scented, star-shaped, lilac-pink flowers which are so pretty you are sure to take a double look.

The history for Dubbo is rather unique. Seventeen years ago I was asked to attend a meeting discussing ‘interest’ plants to give Victoria Park a makeover. The object being to increase the effect of our presentation. Of course plants from all over the world were a fancy of the Victorian mindset, and so a subject from the depths of Africa was most suitable.

The discussion came up with ‘Elvins’ Plum trees, flowering peach trees, an extended range of annuals, and a total renovation and extension of the Rose beds.

It didn’t go well. The extra Roses were knocked back because they are so high in demand for maintenance and we had rigid staff numbers. Also our town had additional garden improvements with roundabouts and verges.

In the end most annual garden beds were replaced with hardy Salvia and Daylilies (Hamerocallis). The Pompon tree proved hard to source out from nurseries and I thought the order never came through, that is, until I recently strolled through Victoria Park. Have a glance at No.1 bed, halfway, behind a seat, and a power box on a pole. It is large and flourishing.

Who planted it? I don’t remember. However next spring look out for it.