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My Favourite Tree.


Père Armand David was by all accounts a nice chap.

He started out as a Catholic Preist but became, via his Missionary connections, a Naturalist with extensive knowledge in geology, mineralogy, ornithology, zoology and botany.

His students apparently admired and liked him and, in 1862, a number of eminent scientists requested that he be allowed to collect specimens for the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. He was despatched to China forthwith…

During his time there he gathered and documented records of the flora of the regions he visited. Some specimens he returned to France. Among these was a tree; A native to central China.


I was young when I first saw one and to this day I have no idea where it was, I only know I was spellbound by the awesome, almost magical properties that the tree seemed to hold.

In later life when gardens, gardening and all things agricultural became possible through having a garden of my own, did I learn more about the tree.

Some twenty odd years ago a friend suggested that we should take a holiday in Cornwall and visit the many gardens that the fair County has on offer… It has now become a pattern, almost de rigueur, through the intervening years to set aside a week in May for the purpose.

There are many, many fine gardens that are open to the public; It is also home to a vast amount of beautiful gardens that are not open to the public, which seems almost criminal.

For maybe three years we followed the routine and on each occasion we took delight in the splendour on offer.

Then, one day as we turned onto a grassy slope at a wonderous spread of garden that has the name of Trewithen, there in all its glory was a fully-flowering tree of my dreams.

The flower is in fact a furry, cherry-sized nut on the end of a stalk and by themselves would be hardly noticable. What sets it apart are the two petals, or more correctly bracts, that hang each side of the flower. Like pure white handkerchiefs they hang and flutter in the breeze. This gives the tree its common names of Dove Tree or the Pocket Handkerchief Tree. And indeed that is exactly what it looks like; A tree full of doves or hankies.

The sight is spectactular and beautiful.

- Davidia involucrata -

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What an interesting blog and so wonderful that your dreams came true.

8 May, 2012


How lovely to read about the origin of this wonderful tree,Fractal...I'm sure this is one we saw a few years ago,in some public gardens in Newquay,Cornwall..we were in awe of its beauty too..:o)

8 May, 2012


A very informative blog Fractual, you were meant to find your tree and yes it does look special...

8 May, 2012


Thank you folks for taking time out to read my ramblings.

I am wondering if it is worth trying one here in Gloucestershire? Prone to a lot of north wind...

9 May, 2012


I would love one but I live in Gloucestershire too! I have seen one but can't remember where!

9 May, 2012


Just found your lovely story, Fractal cat. Yes, I'm pretty sure you could grow the "handkerchief tree" in Glos . . . certainly worth a try!

It is apparently very hardy . . . have a look at the entry on and good luck.

15 Dec, 2012

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