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Woody > Davidia > Davidia involucrata > Davidia involucrata

Davidia involucrata

Dove Tree, Ghost Tree, or Handkerchief Tree

            Mike's Opinion

this is Mike


A unique plant, involucrata is the only member of the genus Davidia. A show-stopper of a tree when in bloom and beautiful any time of the year with attractive foliage and graceful form. With the flowers out in full, a slightest breeze will cause the whole tree to come alive and the white bracts resemble a flock of white doves hovering among the branches.

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


Tree (deciduous)
USDA Hardiness Zone
7b - 8a
Canadian Hardiness Zone
RHS Hardiness Zone
Temperature (°C)
-15 to -10
Temperature (°F)
5 - 14
15 - 18 m
10 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
A broadly pyramidal tree of medium size with large, attractive foliage and a stunning array of flowers when in bloom. Fruit is fairly unattractive; handsome bark provides winter interest. It is a rather tender plant but hardens somewhat with age.
Requires deep, rich soil, moist but well drained. Prefers a moderately low pH; responds well to added peat moss. Not drought tolerant and needs to be kept watered during extended dry periods. Will branch at low levels, requiring corrective pruning to encourage a strong central leader. Prefers partial shade but will perform nicely in full sun as well if well watered; should be given a location sheltered from winds. Quite a tender tree when young, but usually hardens off with age.
Broadly pyramidal form, more so in a young plant, with gracefully ascending branches.
ID Characteristic
Can be identified by unique flowers in late spring. When not in bloom, identifying characteristics would a combination of the distinct elliptical leaf shape, slender red petiole, and the vertical habit of the branches.
Not seriously affected by pests or diseases
Found naturally in the damp, mountain woodlands of southwestern China.
Bark/Stem Description
Orange-brown in colour and gets scaly with age; some winter interest.
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
Buds are large, solitary, and lateral buds develop into short spurs. Covered in 6 or so blunt, pale-edged scales. They are smooth and lustrous, and reddish brown in colour.
Leaf Description
Simple leaves are alternately arranged on the stem, with slender red petioles and no stipules. Leaves are cordate-ovate, acuminate, coarsely serrated with prominent veins. Glabrous above and heavily pubescent beneath. 5-13.5 cm long, 10 cm wide.
Flower Description
Subglobose head 2 cm across on a 7.5 cm peduncle; andromonoecious. Instead of petals; two opposing, cream-white bracts. The lower bract is 18.5 cm by 10 cm, and upper bract is 10 cm by 5 cm. Often flowers in alternate years.
Fruit Description
Fruit is a solitary drupe or stone fruit of an ovoid shape, 3.5 cm long, green turning to a russet brown speckled with red. The ridged endocarp contains 3 to 5 seeds and matures in the autumn.
Colour Description
Leaves are bright green in summer with practically no autumn colour. They often drop green or turn a brown colour, and will fall almost all at once in the autumn.
Texture Description
Medium texture.
Notable Specimens
Two flowering specimens at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England.
Whole fruit can be sown, or use fresh seed (dried seed has lower germination rate), germination will occur after two winters as seeds are doubly-dormant. Can also be propagated by taking cuttings from hardwood or half-ripened wood. Trees grown from seed may take up to 20 years to flower.