In the Garden Now: Handkerchief Tree

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Handkerchief Tree
Photo by Victoria Gilleland
By Victoria Gilleland

Handkerchief Tree, Dove Tree, Ghost Tree are all common names for this unusual flowering tree.  

When the wind blows flowers appear to float in the wind looking somewhat like a handkerchief or if you use your imagination you might think you've seen a ghost!  
The flowers of this tree may not be quite what you think. The flowers are actually just the brown marble sized structure in the center which is surrounded by what look like large white flower petals.

These white structures are called bracts and are in fact modified leaves. Bracts can be 5 to 8" long and 3-4" wide and certainly do stand out in the spring garden. 

You might have seen dogwood trees sporting attractive white or pink bracts this time of year as well.         

It's not a difficult tree to grow but the 'Sonoma' variety blooms much earlier in its life than most other varieties.

Some gardeners have reported not having any flowers on their trees for 10 or 15 years.  The 'Sonoma' variety typically blooms within a few years. How ever long the wait most gardeners think these unusual flowers are worth it!

 (Davidia involucrata 'Sonoma')


Anonymous,  May 4, 2024 at 11:36 AM  

My neighbor has one of these. Beautiful tree. But, I do have to rake the "leaves" twice a year because of it.

Dana Niblack,  May 4, 2024 at 1:23 PM  

Sonoma is a wonderful, slightly smaller cultivar. I planted one in my garden last fall and it is currently covered in blooms. Thank you for spreading the word about this beautiful tree!

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