Dove tree

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Dove tree

Davidia involucrata
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
Division:Magnoliophyta
Class:Magnoliopsida
Order:Cornales
Family:Cornaceae (Nyssaceae)
Genus:Davidia
Species:D. involucrata

Template:Taxobox section binomial botany

The Dove tree (Davidia involucrata) is a medium-sized deciduous tree, usually placed in the Tupelo family (Nyssaceae), but is sometimes included (with the tupelos) in the Dogwood family (Cornaceae), and yet by others given family status of its own: family Davidiaceae. The tree is native to central China, from Hubei to southern Gansu, south to Guizhou, Sichuan and Yunnan.

The Dove tree is the only member of its genus, but there are two varieties differing slightly in their leaves, Davidia involucrata var. involucrata, which has the leaves thinly pubescent (short-haired) on the underside, and Davidia involucrata var. vilmoriniana, with glabrous (hairless) leaves. Some botanists treat them as distinct species, with good reason as the two taxa have differing chromosome numbers so are unable to produce fertile hybrid offspring.

It is a moderately fast-growing tree, growing to about 20-25 m in height, with alternate cordate leaves resembling those of a linden in appearance, except that they are symmetrical, and lacking the lop-sided base typical of linden leaves; the leaves are mostly 10-20 cm long and 7-15 cm wide and are ovate to heart-shaped.

The Dove tree is best known for its flowers. These form a tight cluster about 1-2 cm across, reddish in colour, each flower head with a pair of large (12-25 cm), pure white bracts at the base performing the function of petals. These hang in long rows beneath the level branches. The flowers are at their best in late May. On a breezy day, the bracts flutter in the wind like white doves, hence the English name for this tree.

Young Dove tree in flower
Enlarge
Young Dove tree in flower

The fruit is a very hard nut about 3 cm long surrounded by a green husk about 4 cm long by 3 cm wide, pendulous on a 10 cm stalk. The nut contains 3-6 seeds.

The species was introduced from China to Europe and North America in 1904, and is a popular ornamental tree in larger gardens. Most trees in cultivation are var. vilmoriniana, which has proved much better able to adapt to the climatic conditions in Europe and North America.

The genus Davidia is named after Father Armand David (1826-1900), ("Père David"), a French Franciscan missionary and keen naturalist who lived in China, and who is also commemorated in the Chinese White Pine Pinus armandii and Père David's Deer. He was also the first westerner to describe another rare Chinese endemic, the Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).

The Dove tree is also known as the Pocket Handkerchief Tree because the white bracts appear as a folded handkerchief around flower heads.

References

zh:珙桐

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