Davidia involucrata, also known as the Pocket Handkerchief Tree and less commonly as the Dove Tree or the Ghost Tree, is a slow-growing medium-sized deciduous tree with fresh green foliage. Its flowers are small and insignificant, usually less than 1" across. The glory of Davidia is these are framed by a remarkable pair of white/cream coloured bracts which can be up to 8-9" long. These give it its common names. This is one of the less usual trees in our range of trees for small gardens
Given sufficient room, Davidia involucrata makes a wonderful specimen tree. It is straight growing, spreads well from the base giving it a "flame" shape and carries glossy, mid-dark green leaves that are perfumed when young. It works well planted away from other trees as its shape is pleasing and uniform so it makes an excellent feature or even a small parkland tree. If space is at a premium, however, it is very happy in a mixed tree planting where its healthy green foliage looks good all summer and its bracts add a feature for a few weeks in (depending on which part of the country you live) April through to June. In addition, it has bark that flakes away giving it a pleasing appearance in winter. The Pocket Handkerchief tree is self-fertile and sets seed readily. However, trees grown from seed can easily take 10-15 years before they first show their bracts.
The Pocket Handkerchief Tree In full "bract" is a remarkable sight in late spring, looking for all the world as if it is covered in ladies handkerchiefs. Although its final height can be as much as 20 metres(somewhat less in the UK where it may reach 12 metres), it is slow growing and takes about 50 years to reach full size. The Dove Tree is Chinese in origin. Its seed was collected and brought back to the UK by Ernest Wilson who was on a collecting trip for Kew Gardens in 1901. Probably the finest specimens in the UK is at Kew in London and in the gardens (open to the public) at Hergest Croft on the Welsh borders.
Davidia involucrata grows best in moist, fertile soil. Like many trees that originate from China, it prefers good drainage. It will tolerate alkaline soil but does not like solid chalk. It has no bad habits being largely pest and disease free and it is not poisonous to grazing animals. From personal experience, the fruit tastes disgusting to humans... (Ed)