Belfast Botanic Gardens Tree Archive

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This is one of a series of short articles about trees in the Belfast Botanic Gardens compiled by the Friends group. The tree tag number relates to the black tree maintanence tags, usually fixed on the tree trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.
Family: Nyssaceae
Davidia involucrata Baill.
Handkerchief tree

Black tag 361
54o 34.991N
5o 56.114W
Davidia is a medium sized tree reaching 20 to 25m, usually with a rather spreading shape. It bears clusters of small reddish flowers without petals and sepals within a pair of spectacular large white bracts that function as petals. It flowers in May. The fruit is a very hard nut about the size of a small walnut that normally contains 3 to 6 seeds. The seeds are said to be hard to germinate.
It was first found in 1869 and described by Pére Armand David (1826-1900) after whom it is named. It was later re-found in the wild by Augustine Henry and eventually introduced to Europe and North America in 1904 by Ernest Wilson. It gained an RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Davidia will usually only flower after 10 to 20 years; the specimen in Belfast Botanic Gardens is still young, but this year (2019) produced three flowers. The photos of flowers below were taken in the Clandeboye Estate, near Bangor in Northern Ireland
The Davidia genus has a single species and had previously been placed in the Nyssaceae family along with, among others, Nyssa the tupelo of which the Botanic Gardens has an example. When this account was first written in 2019 it was in Cupressaceae. Now, in 2022 the authority "Plants of the World Online" which is used by Belfast Botanic Gardens places Davidia back in Nyssaceae.
Davidia tree leaves
A young Davidia involucrata in Belfast Botanic Gardens Leaves of Davidia involucrata in summer
Davidia flowers Davidia flower detail
Davidia involucrata in flower in Clandeboye Estate Davidia flower detail - Clandeboye Estate
Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens and in the Clandeboye Estate in May 2019. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.

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