Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: 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)

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

15 members have or want this plant for trade.


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


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Provides winter interest

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

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6 positives
5 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral coriaceous 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 flying doves.

I've seen the superb specimens in the Arnold Arboretum (Boston, MA) and Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, MA). I'll admit that the flowers have novelty value. But I've never been overwhelmed by the show.

Maybe I've only seen them in the off-years. But, peering up through the foliage looking for the flowers against the sky in the crown of the tree, I found myself wanting a pair of binoculars. Seeing the bracts from below but illuminated from above, I found them hard to distinguish from the leaves.

Except for the flowers, a dove tree looks a lot like a linden.

Positive tiswilde 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 these trees would take 10 to 20 years to flower and admittedly, I had begun to give up hope of ever seeing it flower but FINALLY, this spring it is! The flowers are still immature and a pale green but they are coming. If I were to plant another one of these trees, I would try to choose an area where water was more accessible and/or a damper area.

Positive mlarm 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.

Neutral Dreen 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!!

Neutral suentommy 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?

Positive nyloracreeps 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!

Neutral Missyinbama 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.

Positive Jianhua 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.

Positive gonedutch 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.

Positive Dodsky 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 hard, late frost. I thought it might resprout, but the late freeze after it had fully leafed out was too much for it. Since then, I purchased a larger plant (5 gallon) of the cultivar "Sonoma" and it has done well so far. "Sonoma" is supposed to be hardier than the species. I planted it in October of 2007, it leafed out great this spring, and has done well despite a scorching hot summer. I did let a morning glory (Minibar Rose) grow over it to help shade it during the summer since some of the leaves were getting scorched by the sun, and that seems to have helped. I was afraid the hot, intense summers in KY with the tree being in full sun from sunup until around 2-3 PM each day would be too much for the newly transplanted tree. I watered it regularly in its prime spot in a raised bed. It did have a few blooms this spring, so hopefully it'll have even more in the spring of 2009.

Neutral Chooch 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 .


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

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