Dove Tree Takes Wing

by Andrew Gapinski, Manager of Horticulture
May 21, 2014

Dove Tree Takes Wing


The flowering structure of D. involucrata var. vilmoriniana, consists of two large, white, winglike bracts (modified leaves), which surround an inch-wide, purplish brown capitulum (flower head) packed with dozens of male flowers (yet to dehisce in this image) and a single female flower (greenish in color).

The unique inflorescence of dove tree (D. involucrata  var. vilmoriniana, accession 5159). (Donna Tremonte)

D. involucrata var. vilmoriniana in full bloom. Note that the male flowers are now open and releasing pollen. (Photo by Donna Tremonte)

One of the Arboretum’s iconic tree species, the dove tree (Davidia involucrata), is now in bloom. The unique inflorescence of this Chinese species consists of two large, white, winglike bracts enclosing the base of a round, inch-wide, purplish brown capitulum (flower head), which is packed with dozens of male flowers and a single female flower. The white bracts lead to the tree’s common names, dove tree or handkerchief tree. There are two notable specimens of the dove tree in the Explorers Garden (both are the botanical variety D. involucrata var. vilmoriniana, the commonly cultivated type). Accession # 14473*A (from 1911) was collected in China by famed plant explorer Ernest H. Wilson, while the larger and more impressive specimen (accession # 5159*A, from 1904) was obtained by Charles S. Sargent as a rooted layer originating from a tree in France that was grown from seed wild-collected by Pére Farges. Another specimen (accession # 1636-83*B), grown from seed, can be found growing behind the lower section of the lilac collection.

Read more:

White Bracts of the Dove Tree (Davidia involucrata): Umbrella and Pollinator Lure? [pdf]

The Dove Tree: A Long journey West [pdf]

–Nancy Rose, Editor of Arnoldia

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