The Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrata), also known as Dove Tree or Ghost tree, gets its name from its blossoms. Get facts and info on growing and caring for Handkerchief trees. Davidia involucrata varieties belong to the dogwood family (Cornaceae). This tree is a deciduous tree that grows 20-50’h x 20-30’w.
Handkerchief Tree Flowers
The flowers on this Davidia has a 3/4” round head with visible, purple pollen stalks (anthers) and looks rather insignificant on its own, but nature gives this modest head a sure fire way to focus the attention of pollinators. It has two uneven white bracts, the larger measuring up to 8” long, surround it.
During its 2 week spring bloom period, the tree looks like a flock of doves have nested in its branches, thus creating a ghostly presence in the landscape. In addition to flowers, this tree, which may be challenging to find at your local nursery, also has decorative peeling bark for year round interest.
* Important Fact- The striking flowers typically occur every other year, and you will have to wait until the tree is roughly 10 years old for blooming to actually begin. The green fruits are 1” rounds, maturing in fall to reddish brown color.
Davidia Leaves and Bark
The 6” x 4 1/2” leaves are heart shaped, bright green on top, and softly hairy underneath. The tree holds its foliage until hard frost but has no significant fall color. The bark is an ornamental bark that is orangish-brown in color with vertical flaking.
Use these trees as focal points or landscape specimens. I have seen it planted along a quiet, shady, residential street where it can be enjoyed for its beauty.
Origin: Moist Chinese mountain forests
Hardiness Zones: Zones 6-8 (See new updated USDA zone map)
Light: Full sun to partial shade. If you plant it in full sun, make sure to keep the soil moist at all times.
Soil: Moist, well-drained, acid to alkaline soils, high in organic matter.
Growing: Shaping should be done during winter dormancy. Pruning should be done when the tree is young so that you can prune off branches up to the point where you can enjoy the blooms from below. It is crucial to maintain soil moisture, so water your dove tree during periods of drought.
Best Variety- Davidia involucrata var. Vilmoriniana has smooth leaf bottoms and will reach 20-50’h x 20-30’w. in Zone 5.