Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dombeya rotundifolia

Dombeya rotundifolia:
An excellent choice for dry areas.
Dombeya rotundifolia | Wild Pear, Drolpeer (Afrikaans); iNhliziyonkhulu (Zulu)

Dombeya rotundifolia is a small, fast-growing, deciduous tree up to 10m tall. This single-stemmed tree is found naturally in grassland, on rocky slopes, and in woodland and riverine forests, where it is often found growing on termite mounds. In East Africa, it is usually found above 1000m altitude, but in southern Africa it occurs as low as sea level.

The common English name ‘Wild Pear’ alludes to its resemblance to the true pear (Pyrus communis). Wild Pear bears masses of small white or cream colored blooms (sometimes light pink) which appear before the leaves in early spring. The thick leaves are rough, almost parchment-like, and rounded, hence the species name rotundifolia. The rough bark becomes cork-like on mature trees, and forms a protective, fire resistant layer around the trunk, making this an excellent choice for dryer areas. The Wild Pear has many traditional uses: Strong rope fiber is made from the bark, and the plant is used medicinally for various purposes. It is a useful tree on farms and nature reserves since game and stock browse from it. The wood is termite resistant and often used as fence posts, mine props or yokes. Bee farmers also appreciate the tree for the large amounts of nectar and pollen which it produces. The spectacular show of scented flowers attracts both bees and butterflies. The name Dombeya was given in honor of Joseph Dombey (1742-1793), a French botanist who worked in Peru and Chilé.

Historical Reference: September 9th—11th, 1905. Bulawayo, south Rhodesia. The most promising spot near the Matabili Capital was, we were told, the Waterworks situated a few miles to the westward, at an altitude of perhaps 4600 ft. Here we came across two shrubs in full flower, which proved very attractive to insects: one with white sweet-scented flowers, Dombeya rotundifolia, was frequented by Acraea doubledayi, though these butterflies seemed shy of actually settling upon the flowers. Altogether we took seven specimens, three of them about the Dombeya. Another entomologist had discovered the attractive powers of the Dombeya before we did —the yellowish-grey, yellow-marked Ohamaeleon dilepis; it was surprising that so large an animal could be so inconspicuous.

   Butterfly hunting in many lands
   George Blundell Longstaff, Fritz Müller
   Published by Longmans, Green and co., 1912