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Davidia involucrata subsp. vilmoriniana

Davidia involucrata  >  Articles  >  Davidia involucrata
Davidia involucrata

The Dove Tree

'To my mind Davidia involucrata is at once the most interesting and beautiful of all trees of the north-temperate flora…

The flowers and their attendant bracts are pendulous on fairly long stalks, and when stirred by the slightest breeze they resemble huge Butterflies hovering amongst the trees.'

E. H. Wilson    

Grown as a specimen, this tree commands attention. The small pom-pom like blooms appear in mid-spring and are held between two uneven, pure white bracts that are up to 15cm (6in) long. The bright to dark green leaves are roughly heart-shaped (cordate) and lightly serrated around the edges. The leaves of the species are white tomentose underneath, which appears as a fine white felt on the undersides of the leaves. The fruit, a 3cm (1in) drupe, ripens in the late autumn. There is a deeply ridged nutlet inside, and within the nutlet there may be up to ten seeds.

The Genus currently contains only one species and was named in honour of Père Armand David, one of the most prolific of the French missionary plant explorers.

The subspecies D. involucrata subsp. vilmoriniana is the most commonly cultivated, differing from the species type with the undersides of its leaves being pale green to grey and lacking the felt-like tomentum. It is often sold or distributed as D. involucrata.


Seedlings can grow rapidly, producing a flowering specimen in as little as ten years. For a tree, that's pretty remarkable.

Davidia appreciates a little shelter in its formative years, but will eventually reach a size where few other trees are large enough to shade it. This tree should be grown where it has room to spread and reach its fullest potential. Although tolerant of some pruning, Davidia can not be successfully maintained at a reduced size.

Recent tests suggests that the entire fruit should be planted for best results. Although there may be several embryos inside the nutlet, only one will germinate. These must not be removed from their protective shell. If you do clean away the leathery fruit that covers the nutlet, do not let the nutlet dry out, as this will inhibit germination.

Germination can take up to eighteen months, but seedlings and saplings grow rapidly, almost as though to make up for lost time. Germination can be slow, during which time the seed should be exposed to the natural seasonal temperatures - though protect from dips much below -5°C (25°F)


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