mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children

The Handkerchief Tree


The Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrata)

This is one of my favourite trees and it’s in full bloom at the moment.

Davidia involucrata is commonly known as the Handkerchief Tree (or sometimes the Dove Tree, or even the Ghost Tree) due to the white bracts that surround the flower clusters. When viewed from a distance, it looks as though the tree is draped in handkerchiefs:

Davidia involucrata (the Handkerchief Tree)

Originally from China, it grows well in the UK although it’s still a relatively rare sight. I first saw one at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, and the specimens in the photographs here are at Kew Gardens. If you’re lucky, you might find one in your local park, stately home grounds or botanical garden.

Davidia involucrata (the Handkerchief Tree)

Sadly, our garden is not quite big enough for one of these magnificent trees. But if you ever find yourself in need of a medium-sized deciduous tree that has the “wow” factor in May, this could be the one.

3 thoughts on “The Handkerchief Tree

  1. This is a very serendipitous post as I saw one of these trees just this morning and had no idea what it was. Such a beautiful and interesting tree, so glad you’ve cleared the mystery up for me!

  2. PS. the tree on Hampstead Heath (by the Parliament Hill tennis courts) is a very mature specimen with thick goblet of low branches spreading out from a central short trunk. The canopy must be 15 feet across so you’d definitely need a large garden for one of these!

    • Well spotted, maybe there are more of these around than I think 🙂 I don’t think the ones I photographed at Kew are particularly mature – in fact when I got home, I read on the website that I’d actually missed what is considered to be the “best” specimen there! Apparently it’s near the Azalea garden, something to look out for on a future visit.

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