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  • Botany

Handkerchief tree

The handkerchief tree is a species that can reach heights of 10 to 18 m and is remarkable by the originality of its structure, flowers and fruit.

Davidia involucrata
Davidia involucrata. © Tim Waters, Flickr CC by nc-nd 2.0


The handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata), from the Nyssaceae family, takes its name from the very long white bracts that accompany its flowers.

Botanical description of the handkerchief tree

This tree has a conical then ovoid structure, often with several trunks. Its bark is brown and has delicate scales. Its deciduous oval and heart-shaped leaves at the base are similar to those of the linden tree. Dentate, they measure between 8 and 15 cm, they are dark green on top and pubescent and greyish on the underside.They turn yellow in autumn. It May its flowers, which are located at the end of a long peduncle, are yellow with reddish stamens grouped into knobs accompanied by large white 12 cm to 15 cm bracts. Its fruit look like small nuts.They are 3 cm wide and are brown when ripe.

Fruits de l'arbre aux mouchoirs
Fruit of the handkerchief tree. © douneika, Flickr CC by nc sa 2.0


The handkerchief tree, originally from China, was introduced into Europe in 1869 by a priest, Armand David.

Growing conditions of the handkerchief tree

This tree is quite hardy and tolerates temperatures down to -20 °C but nevertheless prefers sheltered locations, as it is sensitive to cold winds and spring frosts. It requires soil that is preferably rich in humus and non-calcareous. It does not grow well in soil that is too compact or soils with stagnant humidity. This species tolerates both full sun and partial shade.


This species is essentially used for its decorative qualities. Its fruit can be eaten when overripe.

Author: Michel Caron

The handkerchief tree is also called the dove tree. © Alice H Myers, Geograph CC by sa 3.0 The handkerchief tree is also called the dove tree. © Alice H Myers, Geograph CC by sa 3.0

Handkerchief tree - 3 Photos



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