Handkerchief Tree

I got a surprise at Dunedin Botanic Garden on 24 October 2020 to look up and see a handkerchief tree (dove tree, ghost tree) in flower, mainly because I’d been to the same spot an hour or two earlier and hadn’t noticed it! New Zealand.

Click on either photo to enlarge.


Davidia involucrata

Here’s a link to an excellent blogpost about the European discovery of this tree in China: “Plant story – the handkerchief tree …”via A Wandering Botanist


Text and photos by Liz; Exploring Colour (2020)

21 thoughts on “Handkerchief Tree

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  1. When walking a trail in one direction and then coming back the same way, I’ve often had the experience of noticing something on the return that I’d walked right past without seeing on the way out. Our attention can’t be everywhere at once, and we sometimes miss things that in retrospect seem obvious.

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    1. We do! In this case I’d been initially looking at a colourful azalea bush, chatting to some ladies sitting on a bench seat, and trying to photograph a young bird on a low branch … and evidently forgot to look upwards!

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  2. I don’t think I have seen this tree before in Wellington maybe I am just not being attentive enough to what’s going on around me lol. Is this a rare tree? I hope you are going well Liz, take care 🙂

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    1. I always think it’s very special to see one, and I’d only notice it when it’s in flower (and even then it’s quite easy to miss!). Also they take more than 10 years before they flower. I doubt there’s that many of them in NZ.

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  3. Ms. Liz, this gave me a lovely walk down memory lane! Decades ago (over 4 of them) my young Son and I saw what was simply called the Dove Tree whilst living in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Fortunately for us the tree was in bloom during our visit to the Myers Arboretum in Hanover, Pennsylvania. That particular Dove Tree was planted somewhere betwixt 1915-1925 by C.N. Myers along with many other unusual trees around his property which was known as the Myers Mansion. We were on a tour given by the Adams County Master Gardeners of the historic property which belonged to the Hanover Area Historical Society. The Dove Tree stood out from all the rest! As closely as I am able to recall, we heard the same history then that is provided in your link. My Son loved the name “Ghost Tree” and that is how I have always thought of it. Somewhere amongst the old albums that I kept those long ago years, which he now has, are the photos that I took that day. That tree was still thriving in 2008, and hopefully continues for years to come. I must say that given the date of your visit “Ghost Tree” is perfect! Thank-YOU!!

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  4. What a curious looking tree. Thanks for providing the link too, Liz, to the fascinating post about the “discovery” of the tree in China. I think I like calling it the Chinese dove tree–it sounds a little more poetic than handkerchief tree. Do people still use little white handkerchiefs? 🙂

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    1. I haven’t noticed anyone using the old-fashioned handkerchiefs for a long time. Of course men also had handkerchiefs but in a larger size. Dad and mum both carried hankies with them when I was a kid. Guess I don’t have much poet in me as my preference is for handkerchief tree – I always think of men’s hankies hung on a washing line! I like ‘ghost tree’ as well – I used to like the Casper the friendly ghost comics.

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