It's One Funky Looking Tree
Common Name: Handkerchief Tree or Dove Tree
Botanical Name: Davidia involucrata
Form: upright flowering tree with a broad, pyramidal spreading canopy
Plant Type: deciduous tree
Mature Size: 20 to 40 feet height and spread
Origin: Southwest China
Hardiness Zone: 6 to 8
Foliage: bright green 3-6 inch broadly oval, serrated margins with a heart-shaped base, good orange and red fall colour
Flowers: red anthers are surrounded with large, showy floppy white bracts up to 7 inches long
Fruit: greenish-brown and round the size of golf balls
Exposure: full sun to part shade
Soil: organically rich, moist but well-drained, does not like drought
Uses: shade tree, specimen,
Propagation: seed, hardwood cuttings
Pruning: late summer to early autumn
Problems: no serious problems
The handkerchief tree is aptly named due to its large white bracted flowers resemble hankies or Kleenex swaying in the breeze. Its other name is Dove Tree, which is a much nicer name. It makes sense as as they do resemble white doves resting on its limbs – when the breeze fails to blow.
Despite their flagrantly unusual flowers, they are not a common tree, but when you do see one in flower, it makes a huge impression. The first one I saw was in full blooming mode was VanDusen Botanical Gardens. The white dangling blossoms hung off the branches as though someone had placed them on, one by one. The next time I saw one was at Bear Creek Park in Surrey. It was fortuitous, as I was conducting a plant ID class at the time. The students hadn’t seen anything like it and they were very impressed with such an unusual specimen.
This is an easy tree to grow. It has good bones and it makes a good shade tree with its spreading canopy. It rarely needs pruning and isn’t prone to insects and diseases, however it doesn’t like really hot sunny locations nor soil that is too dry.
Just one last note. If you decide this tree is for you, just remember when it drops it’s white bracts, that they are indeed flowers on the ground and not hankies!