Handkerchief Tree Davidia involucrata
The Handkerchief Tree, also known as the Ghost Tree or the Dove Tree, was first recorded in 1869 in Western China by a French missionary botanist Father David after whom it got its scientific name. It was introduced to Britain in 1901 and has since become a popular ornamental tree in large gardens and parks in warmer areas. It gets its names from the fact that large white ‘bracts’ hang down around the flowers and look like handkerchiefs, doves or ghosts.
The upper side of the leaf has deep veins. The lower side of the leaf is hairless in the variety vilmoriniana, which is the one most commonly found in Britain.
Two ‘flowers’ in late April. Each ‘flower’ is in fact a single ‘perfect’ (bisexual) flower, surrounded by many purple male anthers. The whole flower cluster is surrounded by a greenish-white ‘bract’.
Close-up of the male anthers with the green stigma of the bisexual flower at the bottom in this photo. Bees are the main pollinators. The white bracts are believed to attract bees and also protect the flower from rain. Once pollinated, this flower becomes a fruit. Photo taken in early May.
The fruit is a hard nut which turns purple when ripe and contains 6 to 10 seeds. The fruit is 3cm long. Photo taken in mid November.