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Davidia - Handkerchief Trees

The 'Davidia' is a rarity in that it is a single species genus, so its only species is the Davidia involucrata. This deciduous tree is a native of China, and it is best known for its highly unusual flower bracts that appear on the tree when it is mature. The flowers themselves are actually fairly insignificant, they are small flowers that are yellow and purple in colour, and these appear in May - but the protective leaves around the flowers, named bracts, are something very special indeed. The bracts are up to 30cm in length and they are creamy white in colour; they cover the flowers and float in the breeze. They are said to look like handkerchiefs, hence the common name, and are also known to look like doves perching on the branches. Aside from the flowers, the leaves themselves are also attractive and these are up to 15cm in length and they are ovately shaped and bright green in colour.

The Davidia genus was named after the French priest Father Armand David who discovered the tree when traveling in China. He sent dried specimens of the tree over to Paris, where in 1871 it was certified as a previously unrecorded genus. The tree that Father David found was a lone tree on the top of a mountain, at around 2000m high, and eventually other lone specimens were found in other remote areas across China. 

Today Davidia trees are widely planted as ornamental garden specimens, and they are commonly admired in nature reserves and botanical gardens worldwide. Cambridge University Botainc Garden is on our doorstep, and we recently visited their Woodland Garden to view their mature Davidia Involucrata. We would encourage you to view this spectacular tree at your local botanical garden, and you can see for yourself just how delightful the Davidia is. When planitng the Davidia in your own garden, we would advise you to plant it as a lawn specimen so that its beautiful flower bracts can be appreciated and enjoyed for years to come.

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