It is rare in its homeland China, only growing wild in southwest and central China. It was unknown to Europeans before 1869 when the abbot, missionary and amateur botanist Armand David sent dried material home to France. The genus has been given his name.
The actual flowers lack petals and hang on a long stalk in a small, round, reddish-brown inflorescence. The tree’s beauty comes from the two white bracts of var-ying sizes that surround each flow-er head. The tree usually has a wealth of flowers and the white bracts are reminiscent of drying handkerchiefs waving in the breeze.