The Dove tree (Davidia involucrata), also called handkerchief tree, is a small deciduous tree native to China. The tree was first introduced in the West in 1904 when seeds were sent to a nursery in England. It has a short trunk and a very distinct reddish-gray bark. Toothed, broad, oval bright green leaves on red stalks are heart-shaped at the base and resemble the leaves of a linden tree. The tree has small, reddish-purple flower heads are surrounded by a pair of large white bracts resembling dangling handkerchiefs or dove wings. The flowers reach their peak in late May. In Latin the tree is named after Father Armand David, who lived in China from 1862 to 1874 and was the first westerner in China to describe the tree, in 1868. Father Armand was also the first person outside of China to describe the giant panda. Also possible that the genus was named in honor of David, a Scottish plant hunter. The specific epithet, involucrata, refers to the dramatic two bracts surrounding the flowers. D. involucrata is the only member of its genus.
Common name: Handkerchief tree, Dove Tree; Ghost tree.
Scientific Name (family and order): Davidia involucrata Baill. (Nyssaceae, Cornales)
Species Origin: China
New Jersey Status: USDA not listed
Habit: up to 80 feet tall; up to 50 feet wide.
Habitat: Zones 6 -7.
Trunk/Stem: Bark early brown smooth then becomes fissured in maturity. Leaf scar bundle traces similar to Nyssa sylvatica.
Leaves: Deciduous, Simple, Alternate. Ovate shaped blade. Bright green leaves adaxial; paler with hairs on the underside. Leaf base cordate; margins coarsely dentate; tip acuminate. Leaves are reminiscent of Tilia leaves but D. involucrata leaves are symmetric. Leaves are not flat but curve upward (conduplicate).
Flowers: Polygamo-Monoecious (perfect and unisexual flowers) crowded in a ¾ inch diameter rounded head at the end of a long pendulous peduncle. Male flowers composed of numerous long stamens with white filaments and red anthers. Female flowers forms a egg-shaped ovary with a short 6-rayed style and a ring of abortive stamens at the top; male and female flowers are subtended by two typical large white bracts. The lower bract is larger; the bracts last 10 – 14 days in May. The conspicuous white involucre bracts of the flower are similar to Cornus (dogwood, Cornaceae, Cornales). Flowering may occur every other year.
Fruits and seeds: Green drupe ripening to brown purple containing hard, ridged nut with 3 – 5 seeds.