Flowers of the Bay - Davidia Involucrata.. The tree with many names!

FLOWERS OF THE BAY - Davidia Involucrata.. The tree with many names!

by Emily Richardson, Head Horticulturalist

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Dove tree, handkerchief tree and ghost tree are all common names for this beautiful and unusual tree. They all refer to its unique display in the spring time. The distinctive white flowers flutter in the breeze creating the image of a bird or a ghost. When they drop to the ground they look deceivingly like a forgotten handkerchief.

You will find ours tucked away between the Pro Shop and the first tee, but you will see signs of it littered everywhere! Cordova Bay has an incredible variety of trees but this may be one of the most interesting species.

The flower is composed of two large white bracts which can be up to seven inches long.  They frame a tight reddish-brown cluster, the actual flower. Although it is a relatively fast growing tree it will take up to 50 years to reach its eventual height of between 60 and 80 feet.  Later in the season small round fruits hang from the branches which later ripen into hard brown nuts resembling kiwis.  Look for them scattered near the path from the putting green later in the season.

If you are tempted to put a seed in your pocket and grow your own dove tree, know that it is a challenging process. The seed requires two freezing winters before it will germinate and may take over 10 years before it will flower!  This helps to accounts for the rarity of this specimen. This exotic looking tree was once a sort of 'Holy Grail' for botanists and gardeners alike.  It was first discovered in southern China in the 1800's but only one single tree was found. It took years of exploring to find another specimen. Eventually the seeds were saved and sent to the Kew Gardens in England, where the most impressive examples of this tree still live today.

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Dove, handkerchief, ghost - no matter what you call it this interesting tree is an amazing part of the golf course landscape. Make sure to take a look the next time you turn the corner. 

Emily Richardson - Head Horticulturalist.