Dombeya rotundifolia

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Botanical Name
Dombeya rotundifolia
Malvaceae - The hibiscus and cotton family.
DOM-bee-yuh roe-tun-dih-FOH-lee-uh
Common Name(s)
English: Wild Pear; Bushveld Brid
Afrikaans: Dikbas; Wildepeer; Bruid-van-die-Bosveld; Drolpeer
IsiZulu: iNhliziyonkhulu
Sesotho sa Leboa: mohlabaphala
Tshivenda: Tshiluvhari
Setswana: Motubane
Xitsonga: Nsihaphukuma
Plant Group
  • Tree A woody, self-supporting perennial plant usually with a single main stem and generally growing more than 6 meters tall.
Plant Size
  • Small
    Tree4m to 8m
    Shrub50cm to 75cm
    Perennial/ground cover10cm to 20cm
    Bulb20cm to 30cm
    Succulent10cm to 20cm
  • Very Small
    Tree3m to 4m
    Shrub25cm to 50cm
    Perennial/ground coverUp to 10cm
    Bulb10cm to 20cm
    SucculentUp to 5cm
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Deciduous Plants which completely lose their foliage for part of the year.
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Fragrant / Aromatic These plants posses a strong, usually pleasant odour.
  • Frost: Hardy The plant can withstand freezing temperatures or frost without artificial protection.
  • Roots Non-invasive Safe to plant near pools, paving, walls or buildings.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
Specific Information

Dombeya rotundifolia is a small ornamental tree with a rounded crown and dark green, sandpapery leaves. The leaves are roughly hairy and almost circular, hence the name rotundifolia . Between mid-winter and early spring it bursts into a showy display of white, scented, nectar rich flowers which attract a multitude of bees, butterflies and other insects.  The flowers turn a tan colour and remain on the tree until the enclosed fruit capsules have ripened. The thick corky brown to black bark makes the tree fire resistant. The common name, White pear, refers to its resemblance to the true pear, but they are not related.

The wild pear has been used successfully as a bonsai specimen, developing the corky bark and reduced leaf size after 2 - 3 years.

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five petaled blossom (a bit like a peach blossom)

  • Winter to Spring Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • white
Growth Rate
  • Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
  • Very Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Accent or Focal Point A plant used to attract the attention because of its colour or form.
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Boundary A plant useful for planting around the edges of the property to form a green or colourful backdrop, an impenetrable hedge, to hide walls or create privacy.
  • Filler Either a fast growing tree or shrub used temporarily to fill in an area while the permanent plants grow to a desired size, or a plant used to fill gaps in borders or beds.
  • Provides light / dappled shade A tree with an open to sparse canopy, through which varying degrees of sunlight can penetrate.
  • Suitable for bonsai A shrub or tree that lends itself to being dwarfed.
  • Suitable for smaller gardens Such plants do not have invasive root systems, remain small or controllable and can often be grown in containers.
  • Wild Garden An indigenous garden planted for the benefit of wildlife and birds. Provides food, water, a variety of mini-biomes and no poisonous chemicals are used.
Distribution and Habitat

from Kwazulu-Natal, to Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Limpopo, and North West, northwards to Ethiopia, in woodland, wooded grassland and on rocky mountain slopes

Planting Suggestions

Keep the ground around the sapling well mulched to assist with water retention above ground. In ideal conditions the wild pear can grow up to 1,5m a year.

The old method of digging a deep hole and filling it with soil and compost has resulted in many trees failing to thrive, dying, rotting at the base or worse still, falling over in later years due to poor root development.  Refer to the following sites for the best method of planting trees: Planting a tree

International Society of Arboriculture: New Tree Planting

Tree People: Plant the right way

For those of you who have a clay problem try:

Rod's Garden: Planting in clay soil

Medicinal Uses

The tree is used to make a tea to relieve the discomfort of internal ulcers, haemorrhoids or nausea in pregnancy, or to bring on or delay the onset of labour. A love potion is made from the flowers. Strong rope fibre is made from the bark. Fence posts were made from the wood, as it is termite proof.

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Please let me know if my Dombeya has a disease because of these spores on its's a very young tree and growing other signs of a problem. Can I treat it with anything?

Hi Fiona

Would it be possible to send a photo of the leaves or a more detailed description? I am unable to make an accurate diagnosis with so little information.

Kind regards

Good day

We live in Vanderbijl and would like to plant a Wild pear tree. What time of year would be the best time to plant it?


Hi Wanja

If Vanderbijl is as cold in winter as I remember, the best time would probably be at the end of winter or in early spring. This would give the young tree time to adjust to the shock of transplanting and have some sturdy growth by the time winter arrives.

Alternatively, you could plant it immediately but it may need some protection on excessively hot days as well as in winter during frosty periods. For frost protection, use three or four tall sticks tied like a tepee at the top and wrapped with some shade netting, or even a sheet. Netting can be left over the sapling during the day but sheeting or Hessian should be removed during the day and replaced as the evening cools down. For a bit of shade on very hot days, I often use four sticks stuck in the ground around the tree and hang a cardboard box upside-down over the young tree during the hottest part of the day. The sturdiness of the structure you make for protection will depend on the strength of the winds you get.

If you have already bought the tree, I would be tempted to plant it immediately - the sooner it is out of the nursery bag, the sooner it can start to grow. Just remember to take extra care of it in winter.

Kind regards

Hi Lorraine

Thank you for the quick response and advice on both trees.
Will start digging the hole today.:)

Hi Wanja

Before you plant, read through the planting instructions in this article. Planting trees in a deep hole has been the traditional method for many years but there has been a change in this method which I have tried and had far better results in the long term. The length of the article may look a bit daunting but the content is the best explanation I have found.

Kind regards

Greetings. We live in pts east and would like to plant a dombeya. We have a fairly small garden and a pool. How far away from the walls and the pool should the dombeya be planted? Also, how aggressive are the roots and how deep do they go? Kindest regards.

Hi Melissa

My sincere apologies for not having replied to your query. I am afraid any information after all this time will be of no use to you, but for what it's worth:

Dombeya does not have an aggressive root system but I have no data on the depth of the roots. I would plant about 1.5 to 2 m away from a wall and as far from the pool as possible. The tree is deciduous and loses its leaves during winter. The leaves are big and very hard, and it drops a large quantity of blossoms after flowering. This would play havoc with cleaning and filtering the water of the pool.

Kind regards

How easy is it to grow Dombeya from cuttings. Can you advise please?

Hi Greg

My apologies for not having replied to your question sooner.

I have tried propagating from cuttings and had little success - one cutting out of ten rooted. I don't remember what sort of cuttings I used so I would try a variety of new season and second season cuttings, both heeled and tips.

Kind regards

Tree is 3 years old

Hi Theo

Be patient. Mine didn't start flowering until they were five years old. In general, most tree species do not flower until they are five to ten years old. As your tree grows it will flower more profusely.

Kind regards

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