The Dove tree, Davidia involucrata, is a medium-sized deciduous tree in either the Tupelo (Nyssa) family or the Dogwood (Cornus) family, depending on which expert is asked. It is the only species in its genus and is native to central China.

This is a moderately, fast-growing tree eventually reaching about 60 feet with a spread of 35 feet, although it is commonly found at 20 to 30 feet.

A noted plantsman once said that a Dove tree seen in full flower, will become an obsession. So, what makes this tree so outstanding? Well, the Dove tree is famous for its flowers. They form a tight cluster, small and reddish in color, but more significantly, each flower has a pair of large, pure white bracts, four and six inches long and they hang in long rows beneath level branches. The flowers bloom in spring and on a breezy day, the bracts flutter in the wind like the wings of white doves, hence the common name. This fluttering of a thousand kerchiefs is something that cannot be captured in photos but must be seen first-hand to truly appreciate.

The only variety of Dove tree is the Vilmorin Dove tree, or Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana, which has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit. Vilmorin Dove tree is red-stalked, with bright green leaves that are pleasantly scented when young. The leaves and stalks add contrast to the immaculate white flower bracts that cover the tree and smooth gray bark adds winter interest.

Dove tree does not like extremes of heat or cold. It thrives throughout the UK and much of the US, and it does well in temperate Australia and  New Zealand. It is tolerant of most soils but cannot tolerate drought. This is a true specimen tree and should be sited accordingly.

As usual, this special tree will not be found in the popular landscape nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, plant nursery.


Dove tree

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