See the “Handkerchief Tree” (Davidia involucrata) Flutter Like White Doves in the Breeze – at the Tsukuba Botanical Garden
By Avi Landau
With the whole town bursting in spring colors – flowers and blossoms and fresh greenery – azalea, iris, dogwood and all the rest whose name don`t come to mind at the moment, going to the Botanical Garden might sound like a redundant thing to do.
But as I`ve told you time and again, the BG for me is a kind of “sacred space” where I can clear my mind and keep in tune with all the subtle changes that take place week by week in our natural world
Or maybe its just the fact that I like to take advantage of my Annual Pass – one of the best bargains in Tsukuba at a thousand yen for a year`s worth of admissions ( a single entry would usually be 300 yen!)
Anyway, I had about 30 minutes of time open in a very hectic schedule yesterday- and decided to spend it there.
After showing my pass at the entrance hall, it didn`t take long for me to feel satisfied in the fact that I had made the right choice in going there. About 30 meters down the path, my eye was attracted by a mass of fluttering – as if a flock of doves were taking flight. Letting my tired eyes focus, though, I saw that there were no birds at all out there – it was just the bracts of a handkerchief tree fluttering in the breeze!
And it is not only the fluttering bracts (quite eerie at night!) that make these trees interesting – they also have an exciting history. Though they apparently once grew around the world – since fossils of this species have been found in Alberta Canada – they had been completely unknown to the West (and to the East, as well) until the indefatigable French naturalist and missionary Albert David found a single specimen at high altitude (2,000 meters) in China in the year 1869. He sent it back to Paris where it was declared a newly discovered species.
Great Britain was not to be denied handkerchief trees of its own as the botanist and sinologist Augustine Henry (1857-1930) discovered a single specimen of his own ( in the Yangtze Gorges) and sent it to Kew Gardens
Another Brit, Ernest Henry Wilson (1876-1930) found an entire grove of handkerchief trees growing out of a cliff in China. Besides managing to extract his specimens out of such a hard to get to spot – he was somehow able to keep his collection safe despite the fact on his way back home that his ship sank !
Thanks to these intrepid men these elegant trees are now found in parks and garden around the world – and I was able to spend a nice few minutes of “sacred time” contemplating it all….