Davidia involucrata

Plant of the month: January

davidia involucrata

Wilson walk

‘To my mind Davidia involucrata is at once the most interesting and beautiful of all trees of the north-temperate flora… The flowers and their attendant bracts are pendulous on fairly long stalks, and when stirred by the slightest breeze, they resemble huge butterflies hovering amongst the trees.’

E. H. Wilson

Grown as a specimen, this tree commands attention. The small pom-pom like blooms appear in mid-spring and are held between two uneven, pure white bracts that are up to 15cm (6in) long. This gives it one of its common names, handkerchief tree, the others being dove tree or ghost tree. The bright to dark green leaves are roughly heart-shaped (cordate) and lightly serrated around the edges. The leaves of the species are white tomentose underneath, which appears as a fine white felt on the underside of the leaves. The Genus contains only one species and was named in honour of Père Armand David, who discovered it in 1869. It was introduced by Wilson in 1904 after his second expedition for the Veitch nursery. It thrives best in a moist soil and a sheltered situation.