Davidia involucrata
Common Name: dove tree 
Type: Tree
Family: Nyssaceae
Native Range: Southwestern China
Zone: 6 to 8
Height: 20.00 to 40.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 40.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Red (flowers) and white (bracts)
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Shade Tree, Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Fruit: Showy

Culture

Best grown in organically rich, consistently moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers part afternoon shade in the St. Louis area. May be grown from seed, but it normally takes up to 10 years after planting for a tree to flower, and it may not regularly flower each year thereafter. May not be reliably winter hardy throughout the St. Louis area where it should be planted in a protected location. Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana is winter hardy to USDA Zone 5, however, and is generally considered to be a better selection for St. Louis.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Davidia involucrata, commonly called dove tree, is native to woodlands in central China. is a deciduous tree that typically grows 20-40’ tall with a broad pyramidal habit. Red-anthered flowers in rounded clusters bloom in April-May. However the showy parts of the bloom are the large oval-rounded showy white involucre bracts (one 3-4 inches long and the other 6-7 inches long) which subtend each flower cluster. The bracts flutter in the slightest breeze, and, from a distance, purportedly look like white doves sitting in the tree, hence the common name. Flowers are followed by round, greenish-brown, golf ball-sized fruits on 2-3” stems. Toothed, broad oval, red-stalked, bright green leaves (3-6” long) are heart-shaped at the base. Variable fall color ranges from undistinguished dull pastels to bright oranges and reds. Other common names, all in reference to the unique flowers, include handkerchief tree, laundry tree and ghost tree.

Genus name honors Abbe Armand David (1826-1900), French missionary in China, 1862-1873, who collected many plants and animals.

Specific epithet refers to a ring of bracts surrounding a group of flowers.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Specimen landscape tree. In full flower, this tree produces a spectacular bloom.