Dombeya burgessiae Gerr. ex Harv.

Family: Sterculiaceae
Common Names:
Pink wild pear, Pink dombeya, Persdrolpeer (Afrikaans), iBunda (Zulu)

Dombeya burgessiae

Dombeya = Named after a French botanist Joseph Dombey who collected plants in South America. Burgessiae = Named after a Miss Burgess of Birkenhead.

Dombeya burgessiae is a widespread and variable species growing from KwaZulu- Natal northwards to Tanzania. It occurs naturally on forest margins, hillsides and slopes and along stream banks.

The pink wild pear is a garden favourite used by many gardeners and landscapers for its profusion of pink to white flowers borne in dense clusters which occur from late summer to early winter. The pretty flowers persist on the plant when they are finished flowering to provide an attractive display of light russet brown flowers which may also be used in dry flower arrangements. The fruits are small, round, furry capsules.

Aside from its use in horticulture, this plant is apparently enjoyed by black rhinos who reportedly eat both bark and leaves (Palmer & Pitman 1973, Trees of Southern Africa.). Palmer and Pitman also record that baskets are made from the exceptionally strong bark.

Growing Dombeya burgessaie

Due to its small dimensions this tree is ideally suited to the town house or small garden as it seldom exceeds 4m in height and has a spread of about the same. Some gardeners may even class it as a large shrub and it certainly can be used in that fashion especially in larger gardens or estates where it is very showy planted in small groups.

The leaves of this tree are large, velvety, soft and lobed, reminiscent of grape leaves. This allows this plant to lend a tropical atmosphere to the garden and consequently is often used in the landscape near water features and forest type plantings. The pink wild pear also grows very well in light shade, which makes it ideal for planting under the canopy of other trees or against shady southern walls. This species is both easy and very fast growing. Once planted out of its nursery bag it can attain its full size in as little as three years.

Tolerant to both light frost and periods of drought, the pink wild pear can be propagated with tremendous ease by simply collecting the dried flower heads, which contain the seed. The seed can then be extracted from the capsules and sown in a well-drained seedling mixture in spring. The seed germinates well and seedlings can be transplanted into individual containers during the same season and then planted out into the ground once they are knee high or higher.

There are about 190 species of Dombeya, 7 of which occur in South Africa. Other species that are commonly cultivated include D. rotundifolia and D. tiliacea.

Andrew Hankey
Witwatersrand Botanical Garden
April 2001

To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.

This page forms part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information website