Handkerchief Tree Davidia involucrata
DAVIDIA INVOLUCRATA – Handkerchief Tree
A deciduous tree which will grow to about 15m (50ft) in the wild, the leaves are broadly ovate, heart shaped at the base and about 10cm (4 inches) long and toothed. They resemble Large Leaved Lime (Tilia platyphyllos) leaves quite closely.
The flowers are produced in May and are fairly insignificant in comparison to the two enormous bracts which surround the flower. These bracts are white or creamy white, hooded, oblong, long pointed and of unequal size, the lower one being larger and up to 20cm (8 inches) long and half as wide. Fruit is a solitary drupe which becomes russet coloured when ripe and hangs on the trees well after leaf fall.
Where to grow
Davidia’s thrive best on moist fertile soil in a sheltered position, they do not like exposure to cold winds. Given care and favourable conditions they can grow rapidly and flower in 10 to 15 years. If conditions are unfavourable they can be difficult and slow.
Did you know?
Native of China in West Szechwan and West Hupeh, first discovered in 1869 by Abbe David the French missionary and botanist. Seed was sent back to England by Ernest Wilson in 1903 who thought the tree ‘the most interesting and beautiful of all trees of the northern temperate flora’ and likened the bracts to ‘huge butterflies hovering amongst the trees’.
- Mature height
- Medium - 10-15 metres
- 5-10 meters
- Round Headed
- Growth rate
- Soil type
- Light sandy
- Sun levels
- Full sun
- Partial shade
- Difficulty/hard to grow
- Season of interest
- Autumn colour
- Large Leaves
- Flower colour
- Flowering month
- Berries/fruit colour
- Peeling bark?
- Needs shelter
- Dislikes cold sites
- Parkland Tree
- Garden Tree
- City/Urban Sites
Pruning Davidia involucrata
Davidia involucrata does not respond well to hard pruning once established, so take care to establish a good structure through training and formative pruning when young. Train as a standard with a clear stem up to a maximum height of 3m. Do so over a number of years, shortening lateral stems in the first year rather than completely removing them. Prune and eventually remove vigorous laterals that compete with the central leader as this will ultimately affect the appearance and balance of an established tree.
What time of year should I prune? Late Autumn through to early Spring
For the continued healthy growth of your trees, shrubs or hedging it is vital that you follow the advice below.
The main reason that plants die within 12 months of having been planted is lack of water. It is essential throughout the spring and summer, to give a heavy enough watering to enable the water to penetrate right down to the deepest root level of the tree. In hot dry spells give the equivalent of 2 bucketfuls every three days.
One of the most common causes of lack of water is competition from grass. When trees are first establishing, the grass roots would be at the same level as the tree roots and are far more efficient at taking up water and thus choke the tree. It is vital for 3 years after planting that your tree or hedge has a circle or strip one metre wide completely free of grass. The way to eliminate grass in order of effectiveness is:
- Spray off the grass with a glyphosate based weed killer such as Roundup. Apply each year for the first 3 years. It is best applied when the tree is dormant as it is absorbed through green leaves and kills the plant off at the roots.
- Firmly fit a mulch mat around the base of the tree by tucking the edges into the soil and put a thick layer of bark mulch on top of this. This can be done after the initial spraying with glyphosate and should avoid the need for further spraying.
Mowing or strimming is NOT an answer to the problem. Each time you mow, the grass will grow back more vigorously and strimming invariably leads to lacerated trunks.
If trees are not correctly secured they will rock in the planting pit. Roots not firmly in contact with the soil are unable to take up moisture and nutrients, resulting in die back or death of the tree. Check, particularly after windy weather, that stakes are still solidly in the ground keeping the base of the trunk firm. The purpose of the stakes is to anchor the roots. Flexing in the wind, higher up the trunk, is not necessarily a problem if the roots are firm.
Bellow is list of the correct system to use to secure your trees.
- 40/60, 60/80, 80/100 whips - Unless rabbit/deer problem no need to stake.
- 100/125, 125/150 1.2m Cane and Easi tie.
- 150/175 1.2m square stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- 175/250, 6/8, 8/10 15L 1.65 Tree stake and a buckle tie and spacer.
- All larger trees. 2 x 1.65 Tree stake and cross rail with 38mm cushion spacer and 1m of 38mm strapping.
Always use our recommended tree ties or strapping. These are designed and manufactured with the correct amount of give to hold the tree firm without strangling it. They should be checked at the end of each growing season for adjustment as the trunk thickens. Non proprietary materials such as baler twine will cut into the bark and should not be used.
Protection from Animal Damage
Rabbits, deer, sheep, cattle and horses can all potentially damage trees. Ask us for advice on the most appropriate guards for your trees or hedge. Squirrels are also a terrible pest when trees get to about 20ft tall but there is no protection available.