Dove Tree, Handkerchief Tree, Ghost Tree

Davidia involucrata

Family: Davidiaceae
Genus: Davidia (duh-VID-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: involucrata (in-vol-yoo-KRAY-tuh) (Info)



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade

Light Shade



Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer




Provides winter interest

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:

Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:


Sacramento, California

Fayetteville, Georgia

Winnetka, Illinois

Calhoun, Louisiana

Beverly, Massachusetts

Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Roslindale, Massachusetts

Westford, Massachusetts

Fairport, New York

Staten Island, New York

Raleigh, North Carolina

Salem, Oregon

Souderton, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Alderwood Manor, Washington

Bainbridge Island, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On May 7, 2015, Russ348 from Banks, OR wrote:

I live in the coast range of Oregon. I planted a four footer in 1995. It bloomed for the first time today (20 years!) It's growing in moist, filtered shade. The bright orange fall color is very welcome amidst the dark Douglas fir and red cedar background. The white bracts are indeed an interesting novelty. Symmetrical, conical form; not densely limbed in my case likely due to hardly no direct sun.


On Feb 13, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This tree rarely blooms until it's been in the ground at least a decade. Trees often bloom well only in alternate years.

This is a legendary tree, brought back to England about 1900 by the famous plant explorer E. H. Wilson, after an expedition to China specifically to find it.

Needs consistent moisture, and prefers light shade. Young trees are marginally hardy here (Z6a) and benefit from winter protection for the first several years. Older well-established trees are hardier.

Many gardeners swoon on first seeing this tree in full bloom. The show is due to the pair of big showy white bracts that subtends each inconspicuous hanging flower-head. The common names come from a fancied resemblance of these paired bracts to handkerchiefs or the wings of... read more


On May 7, 2012, tiswilde from Victoria
Canada wrote:

I'm not positive of the year that I planted this tree but I believe it was 1995. The sources I consulted indicated that full sun was best for it so I chose such a location. It grew easily although I babied it along for years but I did notice that the leaves would quickly "wilt" during dry spells in the summer. Further complicating the watering issue, my neighbour planted adjacent to it a "hedging" row of Western Red Cedars which greedily absorb any water with their extensive root systems. Here in Victoria, BC (home of the world-famous Butchart Gardens), we do not experience the heat found in many of the commenters' locations but we do have dry summers. At some point, I quit nursing it and decided it had to survive on its own (it's actually located in a pasture area). I had read that t... read more


On Dec 12, 2011, mlarm from Sacramento, CA wrote:

There is a locally famous example of this species in
Fair Oaks, California in the Sacramento suburbs.
It is planted in a fairly wet and shady location, with
a couple of seasonal steams running through the
environment. The Prof who manages the CSUS
arboretum here tried to get one established, with
no positive results to date. The Fair oaks tree sets
pretty abundant seed at this point, and is old enough
to flower quite spectacularly. Worth a visit in season.


On Apr 26, 2011, Dreen from Staten Island, NY wrote:

I planted 5 davidias 4 yrs ago that were 4-5 ft tall at that time. Patiently I wait each year for them to start blooming. Don't know how old they were when I planted them. Wish I knew how to tell they are finally blooming. Last 2 yrs they tease with a tiny white (1/4 inch) extension on the green leaves but no blooms yet!!


On Sep 6, 2010, suentommy from Souderton, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

l planted a dove tree last year out back. It is ten feet tall. I tried to put it in a position where it would get some afternoon shade but that doesn't happen until three or four o'clock. This spring it leafed out beautifully and was doing quite well until late June or early July. The upper 90's and hundred plus degree days caused it to lose many of its leaves. I have been watering it deeply several times a week due to the lack of rain but I am wondering if this is why I don't see it used more often in this area. Many nurseries sell it but it does not seem to do real well with heat. For those who have larger specimens - as it gets more established does it take heat better?


On Jun 6, 2008, nyloracreeps from Seattle, WA wrote:

June 5, 2008
I saw a huge Davidia involucrata at the Washington Arboretum Park in Seattle earlier this week. It was on the tail-end of its bloom period. There were many 3/4" diameter fruits from last year's bloom on the ground so I gathered about 30 of them and have been working on cleaning the husk from the seeds in preparation for making an attempt at germination.

It will be an interesting process for sure. Hope this helps other folks who are trying to germinate Davidia involucrata. Good luck!


On May 23, 2005, Missyinbama from Wetumpka, AL (Zone 8a) wrote:

My first crack at growing this tree was placing it in a well drained site in full sun (big mistake!) It grew poorly, with little leaves that dried out quickly in the hot sun. It didn't make it through the summer, even when I tried to surround it with a few tall potted plants in a last ditch effort to save the poor thing. I bought a new one the next year, and put it in a new sheltered location, with afternoon shade and moist well drained soil, and it is happily growing with huge leaves (it is still a small 2 foot tree, as they are not easy to find) but growing at a much faster pace than the last tree. I'm sure I won't see flowers for a while, but this tree shows promise.


On May 22, 2005, Jianhua from Shangshui, Henan
China (Zone 7b) wrote:

Chinese Dove Tree Chronicle
Before the Glacial Age:
Distributed worldwide.
After the Glacial Age:
Died out.
A Frenchman (godfather) found dove trees in Muping of Sichuan, China.
Introduced to Britain; then to other European countries.
Chinese former Premier Zhou Enlai visited Geneva, finding almost every family there cultivated a dove tree.
Recent years:
Reported finding wild dove tree forests in some parts of China except in Sichuan. They are: Hubei, Hunan,Yunnan, Guizhou.
Reported many China's natural parks introduced the species.


On Jul 2, 2004, gonedutch from Fairport, NY wrote:

This is a favorite in my garden in upstate NY. My tree is too immature to flower but the scent of its foliage has already provided several seasons of enjoyment. The scent reminds me of the flavor of black currant (ribes). In the early years I protected the tree in winter with a canvas blind. Now it is thriving in the border that provides eastern sun and the protection from a neighbor's grape vines.


On Jul 2, 2004, Dodsky from Smiths Grove, KY (Zone 6b) wrote:

The white bracts on the flowers can make for a truly spectacular show on mature specimens. I saw a mature tree at Vandusen Botanical Garden (Vancouver, Canada) several years ago, and was quite impressed with the beautiful combination of soft white "flowers" and the rich green spring foliage.

I'm trying to grow one where I live in KY (zone 6b) in a protected location where it hopefully won't get hit hard during the winters. This is the third year, and so far it's done well. I started with a small tube seedling. I've heard it will take several years before it will bloom, so it may be a long wait. I did try growing it from seed too, but didn't have any success in getting the seed to germinate.

UPDATE: 10-07-08
My tree died last spring due to a very ha... read more


On Nov 10, 2000, Chooch from Chatham-Kent, ON (Zone 6a) wrote:

Country of Origin: China
USDA Z 5 - 8
Size: 30 ft X 30 ft
Type: pyramidal deciduous tree
Annual Growth Rate: 12 to 18 inches
Flowers: White
Fruit: Reddish brown
The Dove Tree produces large white bracts in the spring. It can not be relied on to flower every year. The
tree may suffer winter injury in northern gardens. The foliage has been described as aromatic .