Chocolate, cocoa and … Dombeya?

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Members of the Sterculiaceae family. Dombeya burgessiae is named for Joseph Dombey, a French botanist who worked in Peru and Chile, collecting plants. And there once was a Miss Burgess of Birkenhead, which invites a limerick.

Dombeya in a vase with their faces to the sun supported by Pelargonium leaves
Dombeya in a vase with their faces to the sun
supported by Pelargonium leaves


After three weeks away, the garden looks, disconcertingly small - but so lush and green. Pots of freesias lighten the darkness and smell delectable. Pink and white prettiness outside the bedroom windows in Spring Promise is Dombeya burgessiae in full bloom! My Dozen for Diana choice, the plant that sings out loud in my August garden. And your August garden singer? (July's rubies are faded to burgundy and straw) (Golden Hypoxis completed the first four)

Pam in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania is bottling her own beets with her grandson.

False Bay Dozen 5-8
False Bay Dozen 5-8


Dombeya burgessiae
Dombeya burgessiae

Pink wild pear
Pink wild pear

PlantZAfrica says - it can attain its full size in as little as three years. ‘Pink wild pear’ is one of those plants I favour, a shrub or small tree. Expected to reach about four metres high and wide, probably a bit less with our hot summers. Found naturally from Kwazulu-Natal (that is sub-tropical) then north up to Tanzania. It is eaten by black rhinos, and the bark can be made into baskets.

Dombeya burgessiae - leaf detail and reverse from Porterville 2010
Dombeya burgessiae - leaf detail and reverse
from Porterville 2010

So many plants bear the name cordata or cordifolium. And I’m left thinking you call That a Heart?! But in Porterville our plant bore a profusion of delightful hearts. Sadly the leaves sulked and pined away in captivity, NOT happy, cut and picked in a vase. Those tropical looking big velvety leaves flourish in dappled shade and away from the Southeaster's fierce grabbing fingers. Strangely the False Bay plant has lobed leaves like a grape vine. For Pm @ Digging's Foliage Followup.

Dombeya burgessiae Leaf collage from Porterville 2010
Dombeya burgessiae
Leaf collage from Porterville 2010

Leaf of the False Bay plant
Leaf of the False Bay plant

A few lines, published in 1896 says Housman Society UK, lifted with joy from

A.E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,

Now of my three score years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,

About the woodland I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

The little book I once bought for my mother, is now on my own shelf.

Trusses of Dombeya flowers
Trusses of Dombeya flowers

A single pink wild pear flower
A single pink wild pear flower

I like to pick these flower heads, to turn them up, so I can see into their 'faces'. Each truss of flowers is a satisfying handful in a bud vase. That shell pink of fruit tree blossom is sparked to life by the cherry stripes radiating from the flower's heart. (We have been revelling in eating - life is a bowl of cherries!)

For over a year I have been hunting for a vegetable brush which I found in a specialist kitchen shop in Zurich
For over a year I have been hunting for a vegetable brush
which I found in a specialist kitchen shop in Zurich 

There are 190 in the family from Africa, Madagascar and the islands. Only 7 species are South African. Ranging from white to lighter and deeper pink. Tolerates light frost and drought. Can be grown from seeds.

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Pictures by Diana Studer
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Comments

  1. I absolutely love this flower and its cherry red center...just catching up as I have been absent for a while reading blogs and now sidelined with blogging in general due to a shoulder injury. Not able to comment much now but hoping to be back soon!

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    1. 3 weeks of missed blog posts, leaves me with almost 200 still waiting in Feedly.

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  2. The Dombeya flowers are stunning especially with the shadows on the inside of this flower from the sun.

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  3. It's a beauty! Flowering shrubs are especially valuable in just about any landscape. I like the lobed leaves and beautiful pink flowers.

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  4. Talking of cherries, did you know that you cannot buy cherry trees here in SA?! They seem to be "protected" by a cartel. RMan, with his German roots (parents), loves cherries, and wants to plant a couple of trees, but hits a brick wall with every enquiry :(

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    1. In Zurich we happened to be shopping in Migros late afternoon ... just as the nice man was putting half price stickers on the punnets of cherries.
      Supper was cherries :~)))

      Don't the cherries need the colder climate (like Elgin and its apples, cherries at Ceres)?

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  5. Love the Dombeya flowers, not met that plant before!
    Also didn't meet Miss burgess of Birkenhead in the 23 years that I lived there!

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    1. tantalising to wonder about Miss Burgess life story.
      Perhaps she was one of those adventurous Victorian woman botanising across the world?

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  6. I only saw this fascinating plant once on Madeira and I never forget. Thank you for the informative and interesting post on the Dombeya, their flowers are gorgeous.

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  7. Whenever I pass by False Bay I like to saunter through the cross links too so it becomes a veritable feast of personal history, thoughts to self and oodles of plant info. Your Miss Burgess from Birkenhead has a pretty pelargonium head it seems to me and one she hangs coyly but by the time full grown no doubt the gardener will be able to stand under and view. Good to see you back in the blogosphere

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    Replies
    1. thank you - I've missed these conversations.

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  8. The flowers of the Dombeya are huge for blossom and very beautiful. It is a shame we can't grow it here I have never heard of it before. Sarah x

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    1. maybe I should add 'wild pear' is just a common name.
      No pears, no fruit.

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    2. and 'will take light frost' says PlantZAfrica

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  9. What a beautiful shrub! I've never heard of it before. I would definitely have to find a spot for it if it grew here. I love those soft pink flowers. :o)

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  10. I remember seeing this plant on your site before and got excited when I recently saw it in the on-line catalog of my favorite mail order nursery. It's not currently available but I put it on my wish list so the nursery will contact me when it is. Now, I just have to figure out where I'd put it...

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    1. maybe try for a little light afternoon shade - since those soft leaves come from sub-tropical Kwazulu-Natal. Ours does get afternoon sun, but gentled by the trees on the sunny side.

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  11. It's just beautiful, the wild pear flower, I think sometimes that I really ought to just move in with you for a while and be surrounded by such beauty. There is just so much in every post xx

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  12. The Dombeya flower is quite lovely. Its colors remind me of some of the Phlox paniculata flowers that bloom here at this time of year. -Jean

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  13. The flowers are beautiful, like candy. Why is it called ‘Pink wild pear’?

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    1. From that easy way early Settlers gave familiar names to the plants they found here. I was looking at pictures of pear blossom - the flowers are similar, but the Dombeya is much larger. And pink.

      Cape forget me not - is not related to commonorgarden forget me not. But the flowers are similar, in a very deep azure blue.

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  14. The pale pink petals of Dumbaya with its darker center reminds me of my (smaller) 'Bright Eyes' phlox. Perfect coloring. My August pick is not in the least pretty! P. x

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  15. I've not heard of Joseph Dombey before. He has a very pretty flower named after him.
    Amalia
    xo

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