Fantastic Layout Tree: The Dove Tree

Fantastic Layout Tree: The Dove Tree

Not often included in the assemblage of flowering trees for spring is the magnificent and possibly lesser known dove tree (Davidia involucrata). “The tree has a gorgeous horizontal branching architecture and large, elegantly shaped foliage,” says landscape architect Christopher Yates. “It has a striking presence in the scene, and the flowers are at once unusual and beautiful — pure white and pendulous.” Surely a landscape investment, the dove tree welcomes interest and admiration, begging a closer look. Shall we?

Botanical name: Davidia involucrata
Common names: Dove tree, ghost shrub, handkerchief tree
USDA zones: 5 to 2
Water necessity: Regular
moderate requirement: Full sun to partial shade
Mature size: 35 to 65 feet tall, 15 to 40 feet wide

Photo by Wouter Hagens via Wikimedia Commons

Distinguishing attributes. Dove trees flower in late spring, making little, red flowers surrounded by pairs of 7-inch white bracts, or tasteful petals. The flowers blanket the shrub and broadly cascade over leaves and branches, creating a tasteful and ghostly effect.

Photo from vaantjesboom via Wikimedia Commons

It is clear from this image where the name”dove tree” comes from, as the flowers resemble resting birds.

Photo by Marco Schmidt via Wikimedia Commons

After flowering, globular brownish fruits remain suspended by the tree’s branches, persisting through winter.

Photo by Zephyris via Wikimedia Commons

How to use it. We frequently see dove trees in a park setting or other areas that offer an opportunity for a commanding presence. This shrub is a landscape investment and deserves to be treated as such. Plant it in front of a dark wall or contrasting foliage to highlight its own glowing leaves and fluttery flowers. Surrounded by low-growing plants, as revealed here, the shape and attributes of the shrub are showcased. In summer, the loose foliage provides a cool and fun respite from sunlight, while winter reveals the tree’s globular crown and powerful branching structure.

Planting notes. While this shrub takes some time to get growing, it is a hardy and often worry free tree when it gets into gear. It takes about 10 years from seed until it starts blooming. There are cultivars available that flower at a younger age.

Plant in rich, well-drained soil to encourage healthy growth. The dove tree is not drought tolerant, so make certain to keep steady soil moisture. Saplings require wind protection, and mature trees like to become somewhat sheltered also. From the hottest climates, plant in partial shade.

Photo by Wouter Hagens via Wikimedia Commons

More amazing design trees:
Bald Cypress | Chinese Witch Hazel | Japanese Maple | Manzanita | Persian Ironwood
Smoke Tree | Texas Mountain Laurel | Tree Aloe

Great layout crops:
Euphorbia | Red-Leafed Mukdenia | Blue Chalk Sticks | Hens-and-Chicks | Redtwig Dogwood |Toyon

Great layout flowers:
Canna Lily | Catmint | Golden Creeping Jenny | Pacific Coast Iris | Plumbago
Red Kangaroo Paw | Sally Holmes Rose | Slipper Plant | Snake Flower

Great layout planters:
Black Mondo Grass | Cape Rush | Feather Reed Grass | New Zealand Wind Grass

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