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What is Dombeya?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2016
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Dombeya is the name of a genus of flowering plants in the family malvaceae. The most common type of this tree is the dombeya wallichii, also known as pinkball, which can grow to a height of 20 feet (6.09 m) and produces slightly fragrant, clustering, pink flowers. This genus of plants is native to Madagascar and other parts of Africa and prefers warm temperatures and well drained soil for ideal growing conditions.

This genus contains more than 255 species of flowering plants. They are indigenous to the African continent. Many can be purchased anywhere in the United States and Europe, from garden centers that import them.

Dombeya appear as clustering flowers that grow from large shrubs or trees. These can exceed 15 feet (4.57 m) in height, but may be pruned into shrubs. The small, trumpet-like blossoms grow in masses that hang from the branches. They can range in color from soft, pale pink to vibrant, hot pink. The leaves of this plant are generally large and medium green in color.

These trees resemble hyacinths due to the clusters of blossoms, though they are not related. Hyacinths produce a similar pale pink blossom, but they are much smaller than those of the dombeya, and their blossoms grow upwards rather than downwards, and their leaves are typically a much paler shade of green with visible veins. Hyacinths may also be found in a light blue color, when grown in acidic soil, and Dombeya cannot produce such a hue.

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Dombeya trees generally bloom during early spring, and the flowers remain on the plant throughout the spring and summer seasons. Pruning should occur prior to September, and will not damage the plant. Dombeyas prefer direct sunlight, well drained soil, and should be fertilized throughout the flowering season. This plant is somewhat drought resistant and prefers warm, slightly hot climates.

This group of flowering plants is named for the French botanist Joseph Dombey. He lived from 1742 to 1794, and achieved fame when retained by both the Spanish and French governments of the time to lead an expedition to South America to document and collect new plant specimens. A scandal arose when the two countries could not agree which specimens would be held by which country’s scientific laboratories, and much of Dombey’s collection perished as a result. Some of his specimens from Peru and Chile survived, however, and were put on display in France.

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